East Coast Wines defined and made simple!

East coast wines in the US- they tend to get a bad rep, and often that reputation has been well deserved. As with any wine region, or professional group, it only take a few bad apples to ruin the reputation of the entire field. This truly is unfortunate- especially recognizing in North Carolina and Virginia the Wine Industry is burgeoning on greatness. However, too many of our vintners are rushing immature wines to market well before their time, others are trying to emulate  California Wines, and others are simply lazy and spilling bad product into the market place.

I have spent a great deal of time tasting East Coast Wines- Especially those from North Carolina and Virginia for the shop and judging competitions. I have found some wines that are quite nice and show a huge potential for the re-burgeoning industry, and I have found those that ( to be polite) are not very good.

I have  a few thoughts on East Coast Wines and what I expect to see. First, we know East Coast Wines can be great, just look to “pre-prohibition” era wines; both NC and VA were well acclaimed and awarded making these two states hands down the leading American Wine production region for North America. Once it became impossible for farmers to pay the bills from grapes, they pulled those wonderful old vines up and began planting tobacco. Today, tobacco isn’t the cash crop it was just 10 years back and we’re finding grape vines being planted to replace the tobacco- history is starting to prove a bit redundant. Today, most of our East Coast vines are young and still developing root stock careening toward more complex fruit juice and wine.

Secondly, look at the east coast wine region’s terroir compared to most any other place in the world. Most of the AVA’s are located in the Piedmont Regions of the East Coast. The summers are rather hot, humid and mild mid-night breezes; that combined with deep red cecil clay soils. The soil is bright red from ferrous oxide, iron. Grapes seem to have an affinity for pulling ferric compounds into the juice- as the vines continue to expand their root stock through the upper soils into the sapprolite and rock structure, the iron components change into a more primary compound that is not as readily absorbed into the juice. Additionally, it shows one style of a wine maker being lazy; a lazy wine maker with East Coast wines will try to make simple fermentation California-style wines. When this happens, you taste the wine and have a wonderful experience with mouth-feel, flavors, and aromas up to the point you swallow (or spit) at which point you will taste a very metallic sensation (iron). However, those wonderful vintners that go the extra mile and emulate European styles of wine making from France, Spain, Italy, Austria and such produce soft, delicate wines that are a joy to sip and drink.

Thirdly, there are ton of young vintners that are learning their craft and making rudimentary mistakes. Sterilization of chambers between fermentation and bottling. Cleaning equipment and bottles. Actually, working with the fruit and fermentations learning how to be intimate with your fruits. Simply paying attention to the details.

Fourth, the winemaker is claiming to be a NC, VA, or other East Coast Winery; and yet so many of them insist on making kit wines from a concentrate that is not indicative of the region and terrior it is claimed to belong to. Make the wine that represents not only you, but the region you are in and it shall find its niche.

As I wrote these thoughts, I had particular NC and VA Wineries in mind, but to make certain everyone has a chance to grow into what their potential is, I decided not to mention any names –  good or bad. I prefer to think you will go out and visit my friends and neighbors and decide what you think of their products for your self. Additionally, I hope you will give them honest, well thought constructive criticisms of their products when you do the winery tastings.

Eat, drink, and be merry- right in your own back yard!



1 Response to “East Coast Wines defined and made simple!”

  1. July 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Just found your blog. Good reading–thanks!

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