Pop quiz! In what state was the first federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA) located? Don’t cheat. Keep your hands off the Google search button. If you guessed California, Oregon, Washington or New York, you’re wrong. America’s first AVA, in fact, was Augusta, Missouri! That’s right, Missouri. Now a show of virtual hands: How many of you knew that wine was even commercially made in Missouri?
I’m not trying to make anyone feel dumb. It wasn’t until very recently that I learned this bit of wine trivia, and I have been in this business for over 14 years. The fact is, consumers know very little about these “the other 46” wine-producing states, all of which have at least one registered winery.
In Florida, we have 16 wineries commercially certified. The majority of these wines are made from the hearty Muscadine grape, which is one of a very few varietals that can withstand Florida’s intense summer heat and grow to full ripeness. These wines are usually sweet and low alcohol, but can be vinified dry. Other wineries produce exotic or citrus fruit-based wines. Ever try an orange wine? There’s a winery in Florida that makes one, and word on the street is that it is pretty good!
With Moscato and other sweet varietals continuing to surge in popularity, Florida wineries are primed to capitalize on the trend by offering consumers a more unique alternative. Life is too short to drink the same wine over and over again, so why not try something different to satisfy your sweet tooth?
To start you off on you exploration of Florida wines, I recommend trying Lakeridge or San Sebastian. These are two of the state’s larger wineries, so their availability should be a little wider than others, and Muscadine is their specialty. Keep it simple by pairing these wines with a softer, milder cheese, such as Havarti.
For a comprehensive list of Florida’s wineries, as well as information about the industry, I invite you to visit Try Florida Wine to learn more.
Dave Malone, Wine & Spirits Specialist – Tallahassee
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinedavem