The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote a story called “Is Missouri Wine Industry Tapped Out?” this week. Love that they are covering Midwest wine, but I really don’t agree with the headline’s sentiment. Since 2000, Missouri wine has grown from 31 wineries to 118. See the recent Missouri Grape and Wine Board’s stats here. While that is a huge increase, I see no signs this overkill when you think of the fact that in 2010 California had over 3,364 wineries.
The article was written well, but the negative comments left by 2 individuals bug me. They complained that all Missouri wine is sweet fruit wine and have funny names. Yes, some Missouri wineries do focus on fruit wine. But there are plenty of wineries in Missouri that focus on dry wines. Just this last month we went on a trip to Ste. Genevieve and loved that both Cave Winery and Chaumette Winery focused primarily on dry wines on their tasting menus.
The “funny names” of local wines are due to the fact that local grape growers can’t grow vinifera vines, like Chardonnay, due to our cold Midwestern winters. Hyrbid vines can survive our cold winters but their “funny names” like, Chardonel or Norton, are not known to most wine drinkers.
To change this perception about Midwest wine, what needs to happen? As Charles Dressel, president of Mount Pleasant Winery, said in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “If we can get to where we have national recognition, it can really propel all these little wineries. We need to create a regional identity. It’s always better to sing in a choir than by yourself.” I think that’s correct when thinking of the large picture. But on the small scale, it’s also a mix of awareness to consumers and getting winemakers to continue to create high quality wine. It’s about educating wine drinkers what a Norton or Chardonel tastes like. It’s getting local consumers to ask for their favorite local wine at their favorite restaurants and wine shops. Just like craft beer is huge in the Midwest, craft wine could be equally as huge. I have heard of several brown bag taste tests where wine lovers are supposed to guess which wine is from Missouri and which is from France and you know what? The wine lovers guess wrong. Check out this video of a blind taste test held in Kansas City.
As a designer, I also think part of the snub on local wine is the wine label design. If local Midwest wineries want to compete with California and European wineries, they need to have a higher level of design. After all, often times people pick wine based on the label not from the region it is from.
We are apt to promote the eat local sentiment because the food is fresher, you know where it comes from and you support your local community with job creation. Now, I think is the time to do the same for drinking local. Drink Local!