Monday, January 6, 2014

Rant: Local Wine Needs Local Recognition

How much do you know about the local wineries in your own state? Do you know how many wineries exist in your state? Have you tasted their wines? Or do you presume that the wines aren't worthy of tasting?

As every state now produces wine, you can be assured that wherever you live, there are local wines which you can taste and drink. The quality of such wines has been increasing over the years, and you can find some true gems all across the country. California, Oregon and Washington are not the only states producing worthy wines. Wines from the other 47 states often struggle to attain national recognition, to get mentioned in major wine periodicals. As many of those wines see little, if any distribution, outside of their immediate area, then national recognition may not be as helpful in certain regards.

What is likely more useful is for these wines to achieve better local recognition, to become more well known in their own respective states. In a number of states that I have traveled, I have found many residents who seem largely ignorant of the wineries in their own states. The biggest problem seems to be that many of those people make assumptions that the wines in their states are not that good, so they don't seek out the wines. That hurts local wineries as those residents are potential customers, ignorant of the worthy products in their region.

For example, in Massachusetts there are over 30 wineries, and many locals I have spoken to are unaware of  most of those wineries. And they also didn't know which were some of the best wineries in the state. I have even spoken to local wine store owners who didn't know about some of the best wineries in Massachusetts. Some of those same stores promote all the local foods they carry, yet generally fail to carry a decent selection of local wines. These are people who know about wine, and who should be cognizant of the wines being made in their own state yet they still are ignorant. That is a significant problem as those wine stores won't carry local wine if they know nothing about it.

Local wineries need greater local recognition. They need to spread the word about themselves to the people in their own state, those who will most likely become their customers. Gaining a high score in Wine Spectator won't help much if the people in your state don't know you exist. Such wineries are better off gaining recognition in more local press, educating local residents about the wonders in their own backyard. They can benefit from holding large wine tasting events, gathering together a number of local wineries to show consumers what they can find in their own state. Locals who know about good local wineries can mention them to wine stores and others.

I'm on the Board of Directors of Drink Local Wine, and we try to spread the word about these lesser known wineries, to broaden consumer education about what they can find in their own states. Each year we hold an annual conference in a different state, which includes a large, public wine tasting of their local wines. We help to enlighten local consumers, to shatter their preconceptions about those wines. More effort is needed as well, by local wineries, local media, wine bloggers, and others, to help spread the word.

Local wine needs to start with local recognition.

1 comment:

Frederick Wright said...

I love New England and New Englanders but we can be shockingly unaware of our own backyard. People who routinely jet off for wine tastings in Tuscany remain blithely unaware of the fabulously delicious wines produced along the Coastal Wine Trail. My spouse and I organize a 3 day wine tour every summer for close friends and family, as a way to bond over appreciation of the hard work these local vintners do, and we usually incorporate evenings of live music at hidden gems like Chan's. What has impressed me the most is the diversity of the various vineyards, from the yuppie wonderland of Westport Rivers to the no-nonsense, earnest co-op at Newport Vineyards or the quaint perfection of Greenvale.