Ohio: Oldest Brand-New Appellation in America
July 24, 2009
The wine regions of Ohio have provided us with overwhelmingly convincing proof that their venerable status as world class players is well deserved. If your taste runs to classic vinifera wines of aromatic intensity and good acidity, I cannot name a region in the New or Old World which offers such varietal and stylistic diversity, whether you’re in search of a special collectible for your cellar or a jolly good drink that will amaze tonight’s guests.
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By 1860, the Catawba grape had risen to prominence in Ohio, and the state led the entire nation in wine production. It wasn’t just coincidence. First planted in the state by Nicholas Longworth in 1825, Catawba quickly caught on with consumers. American wines were fairly potent at the time and wine drinkers enjoyed the light, semi-sweet style of wine made from the grape. Longworth even used it to produce the country’s first 'champagne' – Sparkling Catawba. The history of winemaking here can actually be traced back to 1823. At that time, Longworth lived in the Ohio River Valley, with vineyards planted to the Alexander and Isabella grapes. It’s hard to imagine where the Ohio wine inidustry might be today if not for Prohibition, which wiped out essentially every vineyard in the state in the early part of the 20th century. With Prohibition now just a bad memory, more than 95 wineries again operate in the state, with more in the planning stages.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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The Talented Mr. Chambourcin. Your attributes are undeniable, but your background is clouded in mystery.