My Thought on Local Wines Before #DLWMO
Since I have an hour to kill, I thought I would spend some time pontificating on local wine prior. As I sit here mere hours from what should be an intense study/drinkfest of locally produced wines, I figure it will be interesting to compare what I think about local wine now as compared to what I will think about local wine tomorrow.
So, here are my five thoughts about Missouri Wine right now. Please keep in mind, I am not a sommelier (though I did get the spelling right on the first try…) nor I have studied Missouri wine intensely. On the other hand, I have drank my fair share of it and have been to Rocheport several times, Hermann several times, and St. James at least once. (Wine + memory = not so good.) Plus, I have availed myself of the opportunity to drink local wine whenever I can, and in doing so, have always strived to learn more about it.
1. Missouri’s Greatest Strength and Greatest Weakness is the Norton Grape
I’m going to let Wikipedia describe the Norton Grape in all it’s glory, but let me summarize what the Norton is in one word: sweet. And not in the “Dude! Sweet!” way. All of the wines I have had, in particular the Steamboat Red and White from Les Bourgeois, are always very sweet. This is no problem for me. I love sweet. My friend Scott, the wine snob, called them dessert wines.
2. Missouri Has Yet to Produce a Big Red
Of all the observations I will make in this post, this is the one I am the least confident about. I’m not really one to go out and seek big reds, but I know I haven’t stumbled on one during the course of a wine tasting.
What is a big red? It’s bold, strong red wine…you know the ones that might get called oaky or “meaty.” Why is this important? As near as I can tell, it’s part of being taken seriously as a wine producing region. So many wine lovers gravitate towards big reds that it seems like a wine portfolio isn’t complete without one. Even if I personally find them unpalatable.
3. Where’s the Acidity?
Again, all I can do is speak for myself, but I know that the Missouri wines gracing my wine rack lack the acidity of other region’s wines, especially those I’ve had from Spain and South America. The result is that Missouri wines may come off as having a less refined finish than those other wines. This is something I plan to ask about during the conference.
It’s also a myth I am hoping to dispel after a few rounds of tastings.
4. Missouri Doesn’t Have a Strong Wine Culture…Yet
I know that sounds strange from someone going to a Missouri wine conference, but it’s true. When people talk about a wine vacation, they think about Napa when St. James, Herman, Rocheport, Knob Noster, Odessa, etc. are closer, cheaper, and in many cases, almost as good (and has the potential to be better.) And if you try to convince them to go local, you get looked at like you have a second head.
My hope is that by this time tomorrow we’ll have a concrete plan of action on how to get more people to think of Missouri as wine country.
(One thing that will help this wine culture, strangely enough, is the continued evolution of the culinary landscape in Missouri. Good food and good wine go hand-in-hand.)
5. Missouri Will Face the Same Challenge as California
There was a time when California was thought of as a second-class citizen to other wine regions (read: France.) Eventually, though, Captain Kirk and Dute Leto Atreides bottled a wine that showed the world that California deserved a place at the wine table. (At least the actors who played them — Chris Pine and William Hurt — portrayed the real-life people who actually did so…)
Anyway, for Missouri to be mentioned alongside Napa, Honduras, France, and Italy as places to go for wine, it’s going to take work from everyone involved: the people who grow the wine, the people who think about the wine, and the people who order it. It might even take a movie staring the guy fom Wings and Paul Giamatti, but if we work together, it can happen.
So tomorrow, I’ll figure out how.