Wisconsin Wine Story Falls Short
This week, The Wisconsin State Journal ran an article titled, “Sales Continue to Lag at Wisconsin Wineries.” The story contains some interesting facts- Wollersheim produces 31% of Wisconsin wine and Wisconsin wine has about 5% market share in the Badger State.
However, the story is full of fallacious arguments and unsupported claims about Wisconsin wine. Here are just a few of the problems with the State Journal article:
Portraying Subjective Experience as Fact– Pointing out valid wine flaws is constructive criticism. Saying a wine is “bad” because it does not conform to your tastes is presumptuous and arrogant. For example, the article makes the tired argument that all sweet wine is bad. At what percentage residual sugar does a wine become “bad”? Please tell me, I’d really like to know.
Playing to the Popular Theme– We’ve all heard the following argument used in regard to Midwest wine: The majority of people like wine from California (or France, Chile, etc.), therefore California wine is good. Note to State Journal: Believe it or not, I once had a slimy bratwurst in Wisconsin that was full of gristle, but not all Wisconsin bratwurst is bad because of this one bad sausage.
Using Small Numbers to Make a Large Statement– From one interview, we learn that “the majority of Wisconsin wine drinkers, (who) avoid most of the stuff made from state wineries.” To really learn the opinions of Wisconsin wine drinkers would require a formal survey. My experience at Wisconsin wineries- and I have been to more than a few- is that customers like home state wine.
Argument by Selective Observation– This fallacy is similar to drawing broad conclusions by generalization. For example, the comment, “Botham added that he rarely encounters a state wine that is even remotely well-crafted,” forms the basis for an argument that Wisconsin wine is substandard. Granted, there are wineries making flawed wine across the region. We all wish these wineries would improve, but overall, quality is improving.
Here are some of the quality Wisconsin wineries that we’ve profiled in Midwest Wine Press. (These are by no means the only quality wineries in Wisconsin.) Wollersheim is one of the best wineries in the United States which shows the enormous potential for Wisconsin wine and Midwest wine.
Fisher King Creates a Legend In Wisconsin
Parallel 44 Winery Masters the Frozen Tundra
Danzinger Wins Big at the Wisconsin State Fair
Mother, Daughter Make Wine at Elmaro Vineyard
Foch Maintains a Midwest Following
Wollersheim: San Diego Winery of the Year
Thanks Mark! People have a right to their “opinion” but generalities are unfair to the excellent award-winning wineries in Wisconsin. Thanks for setting the record straight.
Thank you for your very well written article. It’s very beneficial to us to have an outside observer, with a real understanding of the wine industry explain our states real position. That article was beyond malicious, almost as if a person had a serious chip on their shoulder. What a shame.
Thank you again for your support!
Forgotten Fire Winery
I am pleased that I wasn’t the only one who was upset. I wonder if there is a way to see that the author of the news article sees the response. My only additional observation is that if Wisconsin folks are looking for dry CA reds, how come Wollersheim’s best wine is a semi sweet white and there’s a picture of picking a white grape for ice wine? Plus how about the white zin crazy of the past and current obsession with moscato. Oh, well.
Another thing the State Journal omitted is how the winery experience relates to Wisconsin wine. Like most of the Midwest, wine drinkers are going to Wisconsin wineries in droves. However, this does not always translate to retail sales. In Wisconsin and other Midwest states, big liquor distributors have pushed through laws that make it hard for small, local wineries to get retail shelf space. If you go to a wine store and 5% of the wine on the shelf is local, how can you expect the local wine to outsell the competition?
Many of the French American hybrid grapes do produce fully mature fruit in the southern two-thirds of the state. This area of land mass typically receives more than 2300 GDD (base 50) which will ripen most all the French American hybrids. As you get into the northern zones of Wisconsin, varieties like Noiret, Aromella (NY 76) simply have a difficult time ripening, even though they are cold hardy. However, bringing a grape crop to maturity is also dependent on management. Crop load management plays a large role in producing grapes of high quality. As an example, in the far southern part of the state grape growers can typically mature a crop of Foch at 4 to 5 tons per acre, but as you travel north, grape growers typically can only mature 2 to 3 tons per acre. Grape growers in the northern parts of the state simply drop more fruit to mature high quality grapes. So what I am saying here is that for many of the French American hybrids they can easily produce high quality fruit, but grape quality is highly dependent on crop management.
I applaud all of Wisconsin’s wineries and grape growers.
Most of the wineries in Wisconsin don’t want to distribute and choose to sell in house. There are many amazing wines coming from Wisconsin grown and made wines. I agree with you Mark, well said.
Thanks for your comments about wineries in Wisconsin making quality wines. I did not personally see the article you are referring to but can imagine. TSW has been making award-winning wines for the last 10 years, competing all over the US in National and International competitions. Recently we took the Best Of Class at the Grand Harvest Awards 2013 for our Babordo Vino Vecchio which was made with 100% grapes from our vineyard. Wisconsin Ledge AVA. In fact one of the judges at the competition; Bill McNabb-editor of the Piedmont Post e-mailed me to ask for 2 more bottles so he could present to a tasting panel and write up notes on including our wine as one of the the 10 Best Wines in the Nation from the competition where thousands of wines were entered from around the world. He will be publishing this article in the Piedmont Post. In June of this year, we took a Double Gold at the San Francisco Intnl. Wine Competition for our Petite Syrah. The medal for the Vecchio was particularly pleasing as the Grand Harvest Awards are based on Terrior’ which will showcase the current AVA of the Wisconsin Ledge.
People need to understand that wineries in Wisconsin are putting the state on the map as a destination spot, to stay and visit the many diverse vineyards and winery stories the owners can tell. All are unique in their own way, and it is time that the rest of the world finds out what we already know.
Steve J. DeBaker
Trout Springs Winery
Mark: I did not see the article but please send too me the date i would like to look it up. It said Botham was quoted in the article. He has been in a snit for a long time. I believe he is the only winery of medium size that does not belong to the WI winery association.
The paper should be assahamed of its self. Good article well put . Any wine is to be judged by the individual taster. he is the one that is going to drink it.
The State Journal story can be accessed via the link in the Midwest Wine Press story. Just click on the higlighted words at the start of the end of the first line. (Generally, when you see type that’s a different color on a website, that means a link to another story.)
Just got a press release from Colorado saying how pround they are that 5% of the wine consumed in CO is made in CO. The winesnob who wrote the State Journal story positioned the 5% market share as a negative, but it really shows how far WI wine has come.