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44 Live: Exploring New Ideas

Exploring Grape Varietals

For centuries places like Napa Valley and the European wine countries had the opportunity to grow, analyze and adjust their grapes. Varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and so many others have hundreds of years worth of perfecting.

Cold-climate grapes such as those grown in Wisconsin, Minnesota and parts of Canada, have only had a few decades to prove that they belong on grocery store shelves, next to the veterans. So while the Marquettes, Frontenacs, and St. Pepin’s may not have been around for centuries, they have proven over decades they are durable, vigorous and taste pretty darn good as a wine.

Because the climate durability is less adaptable, there are fewer grape varietal choices for vineyards and wineries in the upper midwest. This makes the decision to purchase and grow a particular grape more precise and sometimes difficult.

Whatever the next grape variety is that proves itself, that grape gets the opportunity to pave the way for all the wine pioneers across the upper midwest.

New World Winemaking

The notion of balance resonates in every aspect of wine production. While the search for balance is imperative for any and every winemaker, sometimes the pieces may or may not add up.

Whether it’s adding or reducing sugar levels, or harvesting later than usual, every winemaker’s decision affects the final product’s taste and feel. A winemaker takes pride in what their opinion and taste offers, but at the same time, if nobody else likes what’s made, certain aspects may need adjusting.

If a harvest of Pinot Noir or La Crescent produces exactly what you wanted, and you press the way you wanted, and fermented and adjusted levels to your pleasing, but you don’t see the feedback you wanted; it’s time to tweak something.

What separates the Midwest from California is the grapes themselves. These cold climate grapes offer lower sugars, unrivaled aromatics and incredible acidity. A new wine drinker’s taste easily adapts to aromatic or semi-sweet characteristics. With such high acidity levels, upper Midwest wines deliver a balance of sweet and crisp expressions. 

Every winemaker is different. Every climate is different. Every bottle of wine offers something different. As long as you produce the taste, feel and expression of something people enjoy, that’s winemaking.

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