26 May 2010

NV Smoky Mountain Winery Blackberry Wine

Here's a bottle of Tennessee blackberry wine my brother gave me last year. My home state isn't the most ideal place to grow wine grapes, but we've got a long tradition of fruit wines such as the NV Smoky Mountain Winery Blackberry Wine. This is from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, way on the east side of the state near the North Carolina border, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Volunteer State, I should explain that it is divided in thirds. The eastern third is mountainous, the center third hilly, and the western third is flat. These regional distinctions extend to agriculture, industry, music, accents, and barbecue. But that's a whole other doctoral thesis.

There's not a lot of detailed tasting notes to share: it's sweet, and smells/tastes exactly like blackberries. What else did you expect? That's not a criticism, but think about that delicious Smuckers Blackberry Syrup you used to put on your pancakes if Mom was in a good mood and picked up a bottle at the store. Add some alcohol, and you've got the wine. I think there's some good potential applications for reduction glazes. I enjoyed the wine with a thick ham sandwich on whole wheat bread, and I was very happy. It was sort of like a grown-up fruit punch to go along with dinner, and I polished off half the bottle. And I used a Riedel glass, which might be a first for Tennessee wines but could get me barred from entry to Austria.

Lots of people ask me about "drinking local", and admittedly I don't drink much wine that comes from a hundred mile radius of my home. Or 250 miles, or 500 miles. Frankly I'd like to see vintners develop their fruit wines and muscadine wines in interesting directions rather than trying to force Chardonnay to survive on land where it was never meant to grow.

Interested in more wines from Tennessee? Back in 2006 I tasted 25 Tennessee wines at a festival outside of Nashville. Also, I guess I should disclose to the FTC that this wine was a sample/gift from my own flesh and blood, my younger brother with whom I shared a room for eight years of my childhood. I was Best Man at his wedding, I don't know if that's a conflict of interest in the eyes of federal authorities.


fredric koeppel said...

is there any reason why fruit wines (i mean fruit other than grapes) can't be made dry? blackberries and elderberries and such we assume physiologically don't have the stuff of greatness, but could they not be fashioned into delicate dry wines?

Benito said...


From a botanical perspective, grapes are just berries, so I don't see why not. I just looked up some recipes for making fruit wine and was astonished--things like using 6 pounds of sugar for 3 gallons of finished wine.

Fruit beers like lambics can be made in a dry style. I think it's more a function of the ever-growing sweet tooth of the American palate. There's a trick you can do with a blind tasting. Say your audience is fairly new to wine. Lay out 11 dry wines and 1 sweet wine, and have them vote on their favorite. The sweet one will almost always come out on top, even if it wasn't even a particularly good sweet wine. Menage a Trois consistently performs well in such situations.


Thomas said...

Reduction sauces, indeed. An absolute best use for some of those fruit "wines."

As for dry, I once tasted a blueberry wine produced in Massachusetts that, blind, made me think vaguely of Cabernet Sauvignon.

One of the problems faced with using fruit other than grapes for wine is that the grape is the only fruit that, when ripe, contains enough natural sugar to give you between 8 and 12% alcohol dry.

Every other fruit must have sugar added to make wine in that range.

Benito said...


Thanks for the fermentation details. I'm trying to remember the various fruit wines I've had... apple, plum, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, dandelion, rhubarb.


Thomas said...


I think acid, pH, and nutrition for the yeast also play a role in the preponderance of sweet fermented fruit drinks, but having never produced them, I have no handle on that stuff.

Joe said...

I wonder if prison wine is fermented dry. If my wife finds me rooting around in the reservoir of our guest bathroom toilet with a bunch of canned fruit, water, and a loaf of bread, I'll be sure to document the occasion.

In seriousness (I know that's hard for me), do you know if these wines use native yeast, or inoculated? Maybe the native yeasts aren't very hardy, and they are killed off by the alcohol level before the wine is dry???

Benito said...


My favorite prison wine recipe involves sugar but no yeast, unless you count the native yeast flying around in the air and whatever interesting fungi are living in that dirty sock.

I'm going to guess that a lot of commercial fruit wine has yeast added to the mix in order to get a more reliable and palatable result. I've tried making bread using local wild yeast and never liked the result, whereas the native yeast around San Francisco creates the delicious sourdough flavor.