This may be the Peach State, but grapes are also a passion, and the clusters in Georgia vineyards produce award-winning wines that are gaining national recognition that are fueling our state’s reputation as an up-and-coming wine region.
Georgia is large and the growers in each section of the state have carefully selected the type of grape that will grow best and produce the best wine for that area. For example, in the Georgia mountains most vineyards are composed of French and French-American hybrid grapes. You’ve probably heard of some of these famous wine grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay, to name a few. In the southern half of the state, our native muscadine is the grape of choice for winemaking. It has evolved to withstand all the heat that south Georgia can offer, and in return offers delicious grapes and delicious wines as well. Muscadine and scuppernong (the white and light-colored muscadines are often referred to as “scuppernongs”) wines are not as well-known as the French varieties, but they are making a name for themselves as dessert wines and drier wines, too.
Whether they are from the mountains, foothills, or flatlands, Georgia wines deliver a “sense of place” that makes them different from wines from other areas, even those made from the same variety of grape. The French refer to this “sense of place” as terroir, and it means you can taste months of golden sunshine in a Georgia muscadine wine and the perfect combination of cool nights and bright sunny days in a Chardonnay from a Georgia mountain vineyard. You should also note that wines are only one part of the Georgia winery experience. Some Georgia vineyards are tourist destinations with spas, golf courses, and restaurants for those who need to get away and relax. The state has even designated a Georgia Wine Highway to recognize the importance and the growing number of wineries in north Georgia. And, not to leave anyone out, some Georgia wineries even bottle non-alcoholic products!
Winemaking is steeped in history and tradition, and Georgia wineries draw on both to find the best production methods from planting the grapes in the vineyards to aging and bottling the final product. But Georgia winemakers are not afraid to embrace the new, whether it is new technology or a new wine creation such as a blueberry-muscadine blend. As one vintner pointed out “We are pioneers.”
For more information and for maps of wineries across the state, contact the Winegrowers Association of Georgia (www.georgiawine.com), P.O. Box 808, Helen, GA 30545, phone: at 706-878-9463, or the Georgia Wine Council (www.georgiawinecouncil.org), 240 Vineyard Way, Dahlonega, GA 30533.