Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wine Country: South Carolina - Irvin-House Muscadine

South Carolina's wine industry is a faint one, with only a dozen or so winemaking outlets.   The wine industry in South Carolina is still struggling to its feet.  The state's yearly production of wine is listed among U.S. states as "other," a grouping of the bottom dozen or so states.  Even as a group, the wine production of the "other" category is minuscule.

Interest in winemaking in the carolinas first appeared in the 1680s.  There is an interesting report on tasting notes of early South Carolina wines written by Aaron Nix-Gomez that you can find here.

Wine grapes - at least vinifera - do not do well in the heat and humidity of the Palmetto State.  For this reason, the state's winemakers rely on hybrids and North American grapes like Blanc du Bois, Catawba, Cayuga, Chambourcin, De Chaunac, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles.  They also manage a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay - whatever they are - in the higher elevations.  South Carolina wineries also do some Muscadine, a grape both loved and reviled by wine lovers, depending on where the interview is conducted.  The farther south you go, the more love Muscadine gets.

You will find Irvin-House Vineyard and Winery on Wadmalaw Island, not too far from Charleston, in what is known as the lowcountry.  Irvin-House specializes in wines made from the Muscadine grape, a grape well-suited to the humidity near the coast.  According to the video on the Irvin-House website, Muscadine was discovered in America in the 1500s - before there was an America.  It is native to the southeastern U.S.

Magnolia White Muscadine Wine is a semi-sweet wine that only hits 12% on the alcohol scale and comes bottled under synthetic cork.  It's one of five styles of Muscadine wine made by Ann and Jim Irvin.  They also produce a semi-dry white, a blush, a dry red and a sweet wine.  It flies the flag of the Charleston County appellation.

The Irvins decided that retirement was not for them, so they purchased a 50-acre farm and then planted vines in 2001.  The winery website cites a National Institute of Health figure which says Muscadine wine contains seven times the amount of resveratrol than other wines.  With all the talk of resveratrol's health benefits, it would seem you really can drink to your health with Muscadine.

This South Carolina wine looks absolutely gorgeous in the glass - a rich golden color bordering on copper.  The nose is just as impressive.  Fruity aromas are wrapped in a sweet earthiness that reminds me of picking mayhaw berries by the east Texas train tracks as a kid.  The wine tastes sweet and fruity with a heapin' helpin' of that earthy essence to balance things.  The acidity is not as high as you might find in a grape that grows in a cooler climate, but the wine's flavor lends itself well to food pairing.  It also hits the spot as a sipper.  Chill it well for those sweltering afternoons that summer will bring.


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