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'Competition in the American wine market is fierce'

Wayne on Wine
A review of some American wines to enjoy. this Independence Day. Photo by Wayne Crawford

Wayne on Wine
By Wayne Crawford

Wayne Crawford
Wayne Crawford

As we celebrate 236 years of American independence, thoughts turn to our founding fathers.

Who among them—perhaps toasting the historic event with Madeira wine—could have envisioned this country’s population, now 313 million, becoming the largest wine market in the world?  In 2011, 347 million cases of wine with a retail value of $32.5 billion were sold in the United States.

Competition in the American wine market is fierce with 120,000 new labels approved by the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau in 2011. According to wineinstitute.org, the leading varietals are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio and, surprisingly, white Zinfandel. This latter is startling considering the number of other delicious white varietals available.

Big Canoe’s local independent grocer provides a diverse and appealing wine selection but loses out on revenue because elected officials in Pickens County are unwilling to support Sunday wine and beer sales by giving citizens a choice to vote on such a referendum – perhaps an infringement on the liberty our founding fathers toasted.

Even with all 50 states growing grapes and producing wine, California dominates American production at an almost-90 percent share. The list of the top 10 wine-producing states holds some surprises. New York, Washington and Oregon are understandable, but Kentucky, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia—in that order—finish the roll call.

Interesting trends in wine consumption include more drinkers enjoying Moscato, a significant increase in sparkling wine sales to 17+ million cases, growth in sweeter red wines and some movement away from high-alcohol fruit bombs.

Domestic wines dominate retail markets and provide consumers with a wide range of reasonably priced wines with the sweet point around $9 to $16. In almost all retail outlets, California, Oregon and Washington state wines are available. Many local retailers also carry a few Georgia wines and, perhaps, a Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico. Most retailers are willing to order wines, but since Georgia allows direct sales, along with 38 other states, finding a wine you enjoyed in your travels may be as easy as surfing the Web.

Wines Drinking Well Now
Gruet Winery NV Brut Rose sparkling wine, Albuquerque, N.M., priced at $15:  Light salmon color with floral aromas; a light sparkler, on the palate crisp with cherry and strawberry flavors in a brute-style finish. Gruet is located at an altitude of 4,300 feet above sea level, one of the highest vineyards in the U.S. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay form the basis for Gruet sparklers. A fun acclamation wine that drinks easily and pairs well with fruit, especially cherries and raspberries; enjoy with lamb and pork.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 Semi Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, N.Y. priced at $15: Dr. Frank is often referred to as the “father of Vinifera” in the eastern United States. Light straw color with citrus and apple aromas on the nose. On the palate this light alcohol wine is smooth, dry and slightly sweet with a long finish. Visit drfrankwines.com to learn the history of this 50-year-old award-winning winery run today by the grandchildren of Dr. Frank, one of the founders of the American Wine Society. Recommended.

Gilbert Cellars 2009 Mourvedre, Yakima, Wash., priced at $30: This medium-bodied Mourvedre from Gilbert Cellars is sourced from 24K Vineyard located in Mattawa, Wash., Wahluke Slope AVA. It is unusual to locate a 100 percent Mourvedre on the market. A smooth-textured wine exhibiting scents of blackberries and spice which are repeated in the flavor along with cherries. It is well-balanced with an excellent finish, making it worth a try.

Bethel Heights Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir Estate Grown, Eola Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Ore., priced at $29: Bright ruby-red color with red berry, cherry and strawberry aromas, red berry flavors on the palate and a medium body with light texture and soft fine tannins. The finish is long and pleasant. This is a delightful Pinot that will cellar for another four to seven years. Pair with roast chicken or duck, mushrooms, grilled or broiled salmon, lamb, pork, Ahi tuna and veal chops. Highly recommended.

Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery 2007 Petit Manseng Vin de Paille dessert wine, Stafford, Va., priced at $25: A light gold color with a nice nose of apricot; on the palate sweet honey, apricot and raisins; the finish is long and better on day two. The winery is slowly improving the quality of its wines. Its Viognier Reserve 2009 won a silver medal at the world wine awards in 2010.

Drink what you like!

The next edition will highlight Merlots.

Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member Society of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.

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