Exploring your own back yard

Hybrids, fruit wines, heritage cider, mead and new styles

At TexSom I caught an interesting session looking at alcoholic drinks made where it’s difficult or impossible to make wine from Vitis vinifera grapes, led by Remy Charest and Jim Clarke. Ciders, meads, fruit wines and even wines made from hybrid varieties aren’t always on the radar of wine lovers. But in an age of farm to table restaurants, there must be a place for local drinks in places where what we think of as normal wines can’t easily be made. Some of these were quite lovely.

Desrochers Beezz de Fun Hyrdommeri Petillanr Sparkling Mead, Femme Neuve, QuebecFrom 3 hours north of Montreal, this is made with Organic honey. This has been made using a wild ferment which is hard to do. It is 5% alcohol and dry. Complex, bright aromatics with some herbal hints and a grassy fruity quality. It’s a little fizzy and smoky with lovely complexity and balance, and a long, complex finish. Really lovely. It just expands beautifully on the finish. 92/100

Dansk Mjød Vikingernes DenmarkA company started in 1994. This is mead infused with hops, but subtly so. It is cloudy gold in colour and it’s quite sweet with a honeyed richness, and some spicy depth. Some rich raisiny notes in the mix too. Very bold and sweet. 85/100

Frederiksdal Vin at Kirsebaer Late Bottled DenmarkCherry wine, fortified. Cherry pit on the nose. Lovely sweet cherry fruit on the palate with the sourness balanced by sweetness. It’s a sweet wine but there’s a long, tangy, sour cherry finish. Nice intensity here. 89/100

Bluet Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 2017, Maine, USAI was really surprised by this, my first experience of blueberry wine. Lovely nose of cherries and raspberries, with floral detail. Fresh and supple with nice acidity and freshness, with really pure fruit. Lots of interest here: it’s sparkling and fizzy, more in a frizzante style. Nicely complex. 90/100

Maui Wine Hula o Maui Pineapple Sparkling Wine Traditional Method, HawaiiTastes like alcoholic pineapple juice. Tangy and bright with a bit of spritz. Pineapples are grown all year round in Hawaii. The pineapple is very pulpy so it needs to be racked lots to get it clear. 85/100

Eden Cinderella’s Slipper Cellar Series Still Natural Cider, VermontGolden colour. Powerful and dense with a tangy, appley edge and lots of spice and tannin. Nice bitter hints as well as some fruitiness. Dry, complex and intense, with nice intensity and good acidity and structure. 91/100

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2018 Gaspareau Valley, Nova Scotia, CanadaSparkling wine specialist Benjamin Bridge make some fancy high-end wines, but also this fun fizz which is made from hybrids. Very fruity and expressive with nice bright citrus and pear fruit, with some melon hints, a hint of rhubarb and nice sweetness. Very fruity and expressive, and off dry. Delicious and approachable. 87/100

Haak Vineyards & Winery Ensaio Blanc du Bois Dry 2018 TexasBlanc du Bois is a four-species hybrid developed in 1968 in Florida. Lovely texture here: nice pear and table grape fruit character with a smooth mouthfeel and very clean fruit. Lovely purity here. 87/100

Galen Glen Chambourcin 2017 Lehigh Valley, PennsylvaniaChambourcin was developed in 1945. This is fruit-driven and ripe with a slight chocolatey edge to the sweet, textured blackberry and cherry fruit. Nice fresh fruit here with some juiciness. Seductive and rich. 86/100

Iapetus Subduction 2017 VermontMade from a modern hybrid called Marquette, which was developed in 1989, with several different species in its parentage. Vibrant, fresh and floral with nice seductive sweet cherry and plum fruit, with good freshness and bright acidity. Lovely vibrant red fruits here, with some alcoholic warmth (15%) balancing out the fresh red fruits. Very stylish. 91/100

Stone House Vineyard ‘Claros’ Norton Reservé 2017 Texas Hill CountryNorton is the hybrid here. Ripe and rich with sweet black fruits. Has a sweetness to its core, with some lushness. Soft and sleek with nice depth of flavour: a very rich wine. 88/100