Winecast: American Wine

Winecast: American Wine

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hello everybody and welcome to the wine caste my recent cast on Australian wine inspired me to try the same type of cast for something a little closer to home the u.s. after all like Australia the u.s. is a huge country and a major player in the world wine market known for wines from various regions within it each that could easily do with the dedicated Futurecast so as with Australia this cast will be about getting you some information about the history grapes law and wine culture that each of these American regions share so we won't have to go over them again in each Future cast unlike in other parts
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of the new world colonists from Europe found native species of grapes growing in North America these species were not vidis vinifera though the species cultivated in Europe North Africa and the Middle East to make wine but instead more than a dozen local species the six most important of which in terms of being able to make drinkable wine being vidis la Brusco east of alice rotundifolia ripe area reap estrus and Mustang guinness with vanilla the european wine grape arriving on both
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coasts of what would later become the United States with colonists primarily from Britain on the east coast and from Spain on the west coast making wine from vinifera grapes though turned out to be a bit of a struggle at least on the East Coast where the extremely humid climate promoted rot and other diseases among the vines and where the vines were vulnerable to pests like flocks ara that the native vines had developed a resistance to dooming any effort to make vanilla based wines the climate on the west coast was much more like southern Europe and there were no natural
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grapevine predators there either meaning that settlers could make vanilla wines from the start but the main grape Spanish settlers brought with them was biiis the same grape that they brought with them to Chile and other parts of their empire and that ended up making pretty uninspired and unexcited communion wine back on the East Coast it did occur to British and other settlers to make wine from the local grapes but these grapes had a suite of flavors that varied from species to species but we're all in some ways more or less unappetizing to European palates notably
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many of them carried musky aromas and flavors that for reasons that aren't entirely clear ended up being described as foxy that means and seemed to have been an acquired taste over time settlers began breeding the local species and vanilla from Europe to create hybrids that had better flavor and aroma profiles than the native grapes and that could stand the local climate impasse better than vanilla they had some success with these hybrids and quite a few of them are still a popular winemaking option on the east coast of the United States and they were even
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part of an early solution to the problem of flocks row when that plague made its way to Europe but the judgment of most was that they never could match the complexity and quality of vanilla incidentally when discussing new grapes produced by breeding you'll hear a couple of terms come up that have very particular meaning so it's worth clarifying them if someone refers to a cross then they're talking about an entrust specific breeding or a breeding between two members of the same species but if they mention a hybrid that the breeding was inter specific or between two different species
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so when Saran Peller saw for example got together in the South of France a century and a half or so ago and had a lovechild the result in de reef / petit Sirah is called a cross because both sera and paler song are members of the same species in this case of it is vanilla but when the vanilla grape fall blanched was bred perhaps accidentally with a member of the vidis ripe area species the resulting grape Baku noir is called a hybrid because of its multi species parentage wine is still made in the United States from native grape
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species with the most prominent examples being Concord and Niagara from the LA Brusco species that are both very important to the New York State wine industry with Concord providing the signature grape flavor in many jams candies and sodas produced in the United States the very first wine in what would become the US was made in the early 1560s by French Huguenot settlers near what's now st. Augustine Florida from Scuppernong grapes and you can still find a fair amount of wine made from that grape today and you won't have any
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trouble whatsoever finding norton grapes if you visit missouri it's the hybrids though that get all of the respect at least relatively speaking and you'll see bottlings of these all over the eastern seaboard and midwest of the united states with the ones I've listed here being some of the most common examples so I've been covering a lot of American wine history really fast but there's one thing that you can't omit when talking about American wine and that's prohibition though the form of it that's most well-known is national prohibition involving the entire country
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individual counties and municipalities in the US were passing so-called local options that allowed them to ban the sale of various kinds of alcohol usually at least distilled liquor and often wine and beer as well in 1851 Maine became the first state to go dry passing a law banning the sale of all alcoholic beverages and within four years Maine was joined by twelve other states that had also gone dry prohibition at the national level began on January 17 1920 a year after the passage of the 18th amendment to the US Constitution and
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lasted until December 5th 1933 when it was repealed by the twenty-first amendment prohibition in its aftermath are worthy of a full wine cast but for now suffice it to say that the damage done to quality wine production and the culture of wine consumption in the US was enormous with only a small number of wineries managing to survive those awful 13 years usually by selling grapes for table consumption or by providing grapes for individuals and organizations taking advantage of several exemptions for the medicinal and sacramental production of
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wine or of a provision that allowed for home winemakers to make up to 200 gallons per year of quote non-intoxicating cider and fruit juice unquote that usually ended up being surprisingly intoxicating part of what delayed recovery was the fact that the twenty-first amendment that ended national prohibition with its first sentence didn't leave well enough alone and added a second sentence saying that transporting or importing alcohol into any state or other part of the US would still be illegal if it went against the
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laws of that state so States still had the right to remain dry and several states did so with Mississippi North Carolina Oklahoma and Texas staying dry after prohibition and though most of them repealed a few years later Mississippi didn't until 1966 the states that didn't enact statewide bans on alcohol often gave counties and cities the option of doing so and even today though most of the US counties pictured in blue are wet and allow the sale of alcoholic beverages
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many are dry pictured in red and ban those sales well a large number or moist or damp I'm not kidding that's actually what they're called and either have some wet municipalities in an otherwise dry County or vice versa and even states with no dry or moist counties can and do have other laws that restrict the sale of alcohol like laws that prohibit sales on Sundays or before a certain time of the day on Sunday or as pictured on this map that don't allow wine to be sold in grocery stores but required to be purchased in only
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pharmacies or liquor stores and that's just the tip of the strange wine and liquor law iceberg with the u.s. having a complex set of laws governing how wine can be sold and distributed throughout the country that really deserves its own cast but it wasn't just legal issues that made recovery so difficult it was also an issue of wine culture with for reasons that are still not well understood Americans emerging from Prohibition with a serious sweet tooth for their booze before prohibition dry wine outsold sweet wine in the US by a margin of 3 to
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1 but after prohibition still dry wine wouldn't outsell sweet fortified wine until wait for it 1968 yep 1968 so producers of quality dry wine definitely had their work cut out for them in spite of all that things have turned around for the US and the United States is currently one of the biggest players in the wine world in 2016 the US was the fourth largest producer of wine in the world following Italy France and Spain that
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same year the US was the sixth largest exporter of wine trailing just behind Australia in terms of dollar value of exports and with 90% of those exports coming from California and it was also the largest importer of wine that year in terms of exports the USA's largest market is the EU including Great Britain followed by our friendly neighbor to the north Canada and about 30 percent of US wine sales are for imported wines and that number appears to be rising California's we'll see in a minute is
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the US as biggest wine producing by a very large margin and that's not a big surprise if you remember California's favorable climate and lack of natural pests so even though the first commercial winery in California wasn't founded until 1857 much later than wineries back east the industry quickly became the most significant in America and even the twin plagues of flocks were a few decades later and prohibition couldn't knock it from its perch so speaking of significant wine producing States where is all this wine
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coming from well that's actually a bit of a complicated question it's common and wine circles to here the california produces around ninety percent of US wine but that number needs a closer look see the best source for numbers for wine production in a given year let's take 2016 as our example is the TTB or alcohol and tobacco tax and trade Bureau that oversees wine regulation in the United States and according to them California produces is still impressive eighty-five percent of American wine
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with Washington State the home of this cast clocking in at a distant second with five percent production followed by New York State with three point five percent production with Pennsylvania and Oregon each contributing about 1.5 percent and the rest of the states since grape wine is produced in every state in the United States including Alaska and Hawaii taking up the modest slack so what could be complicated about that case closed right well what's complicated is that when it comes to the statistics that the TTB releases the TTB
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is clear in its own literature that it defines wine as quote every class and type of product produced on a bonded wine premises from grapes other fruit including berries or other suitable agricultural products close quote in other words wine to the TTB means alcoholic beverages made not just from vanilla but also from native and hybrid grapes and fruit all the way from raspberries to kumquats that's significant because some US states like Pennsylvania have a relatively high
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volume of production of fruit and non vanilla wines compared to other states like Oregon that though they do produce fruit wines have a larger percentage of their production devoted even if rrah so if only grape wines and not fruit wines were considered than the West Coast states of California Washington and Oregon would take a bigger share and if only vinifera wines were considered then that share would get even larger since wines made from hybrids and native grapes are very rare in those states but fairly common in New York Pennsylvania and elsewhere so the
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90 percent figure provided you're just thinking of vanilla might not be far off New York and Pennsylvania do grow venafro with New York especially getting some serious praise lately for its vanilla wines and in addition to these two there are small but commercially significant plantings of it is vanilla in Virginia Texas Arizona and Idaho with the grape wine industries of other states being either very tiny or overwhelmingly focused on native grapes and hybrids our wines made from these
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grapes labeled unlike the elegant commitment to a single percentage followed by some countries like Australia the US has a variety of percentages for various categories if a place of origin for a wine is given as the entire United States or a state or county within the US then 75 percent of the grapes in that wine must have come from the named location if the place of origin is an American video cultural area or a VA then 85 percent of the grapes must have come from there and if the location is a named vineyard then
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that number goes up to 95 percent for more information on american viticultural areas and some exceptions to these general rules please see my cast on AV ace if a name varietal appears on the label then 75 percent of the wine in the bottle must be from the name varietal unless the varietal is a member of the vidis la Brusco family like concord or niagara in which case it only needs to be 51 percent of what's in the bottle if two or more varietals are used and the producer wants to identify one of them then she must identify all
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of them and give the percentages of each in the bottle if a vintage date appears on the label and the wine has a state or county place of origin then 85 percent of the wine in the bottle must be from the named vintage but if the place of origin is an a VA then the requirement goes up to 95 percent so what are the big grapes when it comes to american wine they're literally hundreds of varietals planted in the US and based on numbers for 2010 in terms of acres under vine Chardonnay leads that pack followed by
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Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Zinfandel pinot noir colum barn that often appears an inexpensive large format wines Syrah Concord the only native non vanilla grape in the top ten Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris Riesling comes in at number eleven and a bit farther down the line is Arif petite Syrah with the us being one of the countries with the largest plantings of this grape in the world style-wise in the u.s. varietals are king with tons and tons of American wines bearing the name of one grape only
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even if sometimes only 75% of the wine is that grape there certainly are lots of blends out there though with red blends being especially popular sparklers were big deal too with California no surprise leading the way there and with a number of French and Spanish sparkling producers from champagne the cava production regions of Spain and elsewhere having production houses in California and selling brands made from local grapes wines made from native and hybrid grapes are almost unknown on the west coast of the United States but they're very popular on the
14:30
eastern seaboard and in the south they get a lot of grief from vanilla drinkers and the truth is I haven't sampled enough to make a fair judgement but on a trip to Pennsylvania a couple of years ago I had some wines made from Chancellor and sham Boursin and thought they were actually pretty solid good luck finding them though if you don't live in the areas where they're produced finally America hasn't completely recovered from its post prohibition sweet tooth and a lot of still wines both white red and rose a that are made in America carry noticeable sweetness and calling some of them off dry would
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be an understatement every year around 20 million cases of very sweet white Zinfandel from various producers is sold in the US and for comparison's sake the entire state of Washington usually only produces around seventeen point five million cases of wine total and there's a growing trend in sweet red wine blends and sweet whites especially chardonnays for some tips on identifying these wines before you buy them or don't buy them see my cast on shelf talkers thanks for joining me for another wine
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cast I hope you finished this cast with an overall framework for American wine that will either help you enjoy it more or make some sense of it if you're new to it a cast like this can only begin to tell the story of wine in the US and I hope to flesh that story out with additional casts on the full impact of prohibition on American wine culture and law and with individual casts on the major wine producing States if this cast was helpful and enjoyable please like and subscribe if you haven't already and thanks as always to all of my viewers for taking the time to watch comment ask
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questions and make requests I'm your host the unknown wine caster and I'm out enjoy the grape but always enjoy it responsibly

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