When thinking of Missouri, many people do not associate it with wine. What you may not know is that the state actually has a rich history of wine making that dates back to the late 18th and early 19th century. Before the prohibition, Missouri was 2nd in the country in wine production (1st was New York). Believe it or not, about an hour outside of the busy city of St. Louis, you will find some of the best wines you’ve ever tasted (they have several international awards to prove it).
Missouri was key in reviving the French wine industry in the 1870s
Grape growing in Missouri started with French settlers mainly in the southwestern area of the state and was then advanced when German settlers began growing in central Missouri. One of the most interesting pieces of Missouri’s wine history lies in their revival of the French wine industry. In the 1870s, a vineyard pest named phylloxera louse wiped out most of the vineyards in France, which ironically originated in North America and was transported to Europe during Queen Ann’s reign, who was an advocate of botany. A Missouri entomologist (one who studies insects), C.V. Riley, discovered a phylloxera resistant, American rootstock that was sent to France to be grafted with French vines. Soon, the vines in France began to grow solid and the French wine industry was restored.
Missouri makes several hybrids of common grapes
For example, Chardonnay, known as one of the noble grapes of France and a mainstream international grape variety, is grown as Chardonel in the “Show-Me-State.” Chardonel is a French-American hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc that is very similar to its parent grape, Chardonnay, but is able to withstand Missouri’s cold winters. Also, Chardonel, like Chardonnay, can be fermented in steel or French oak. Another great hybrid Missouri has to offer is their Norton, (also known as Cynthiana). It is produced in a medium-to full-bodied dry style with robust black cherry flavors and spicy overtones. Norton is also Missouri’s state grape and is considered the only serious North American grape variety. Another great red wine hybrid grown in Missouri is Chambourcin. It is a French hybrid with Pinot Noir lineage. Chambourcin is known as an excellent gateway to dry red wines because it is medium bodied and earth driven with black currants.
Missouri wines are very diverse
The state is able to grow every international wine style by using grape varieties that grow well in Missouri. Although Missouri has rough winters and humid, hot summers many of the wines made in Missouri are hybrids of other grape varieties you may know such as Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Chambourcin, as we just learned. Missouri has everything from dry, off dry, dessert, and sparkling wines that can compete with wines made all around the world.
Missouri’s dessert wines will blow you away
Some of their dessert wines were produced in the late 19th century, but it has only been in the past twenty years that Missouri has been recognized for their truly great dessert wines by international wine critics. Missouri produces everything from late harvest wines, to ports, to delicious sparkling wines that are able to thrive and beautifully ripen during the long and warm growing season. We would recommend Port made in Missouri. Try it with a rich, chocolate dessert and you will melt! The sum of two parts of this food and wine pairing make something spectacular on the palate.
Written by: Taylor Bartley