Fruit wines (non-grape wines) are a delicious and popular choice in climates with cooler temperatures. New Hampshire, in particular, is fortunate with its excellent growing conditions and established reputation for some of the nation’s best apple- and berry-picking.
Aside from baking pies, pastries, and fruit jams, winemakers utilize New Hampshire’s abundance of fermentable plant matter to produce world-class fruit wines. These innovative winemakers have succeeded in creating the perfect recipe for aromatic white grape wines known to New Hampshire. Processing fruit in the same production as grapes lends to more aromatic fruit wines as well.
The proof is in the tasting, and what these winemakers can do with fruit wines gives New Hampshire the upper hand on the emerging fruit wine scene.
In juxtaposition to the challenges and limitations of growing certain grape varietals, New Hampshire is an ideal location for growing superior fruit. Its quality harvests, in turn, produce fruit wines that are proven leaders in the nation.
Much like grape varietals used to make indigenous wines, there are fruits specific to every region. So when you enjoy a fruit wine, you are tasting a sample of the best fruit an area or region has to offer—from apples and pears to all types of berries.
It’s All About Options
Grape wines offer harmonious selections of tastes that speak to each wine region, its soil, winemaking culture, and climate. New Hampshire has a foothold on growing quality fruit with a variety of fruits to create an expansive selection of wines.
Outside of using grapes, fruits such as apples, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, raspberries, and more are grown in the best conditions for making fruit wines. These fruits produce wines with a palatable variance from dry to sweet, from simple to complex—all fascinating in the same styles as classic grape wines. These varied profiles of wine are bottled and labeled as still table wines, to light, fruity, sparkling wines, to intense, sweet dessert-style wines.
In many ways, making fruit wine is similar to a traditional grape wine. The fruit is first harvested, then crushed to allow the yeast to access sugars. It then ferments before the juice is pressed, aged, bottled, labeled, and put on the shelves for sale.
As with traditional grape wine, fruit winemakers may opt to craft unique blends using multiple fruits. Where these pioneering winemakers part ways with the grape process goes beyond fruit. There are also producers who include flowers and herbs in their blends.
Although fruit wines are typically aged in stainless steel tanks, there are instances when the juice is barrel-aged. Many winemakers agree that fruit wines should be aged in barrels, as this aging process is as critical in producing fruit wines as it is in classic grape wines—for the same reasons. Barrels offer numerous approaches to which a winemaker can enhance the wine’s character and complexity.
The barrel’s toast level will further create signature flavor profiles. For instance, a light toast level will lead to a higher tannin structure, while a medium toast level will create a complexity of baking spices, honey, and chocolate notes. A medium-plus toasting level will lead to a highly-complex wine profile, and a heavy toasting level will add prominent notes of vanilla, espresso, butterscotch, and even smoke.
Dependent upon the type of wood used, the range of its toast level, micro-oxidation, the age of the barrel, and time juice is spent in barrel is part of the process. Interesting to note is while fruit wines are typically consumed young, there are fruit wines that can be laid down to age for a decade or longer. The final result would be a superior, complex fruit wine.
The Hermit Woods Petite Blue and Petite Blue Reserve are among the winery’s most popular wines. In 2014, thanks to media feature coverage on the Today Show, these two fruit wine labels put Hermit Woods Winery, based in Meredith, and, in fact, the entire state of New Hampshire on the world wine map. Fascinating to viewers was to learn that in each and every bottle of Hermit Woods Petite Blue and Petite Blue Reserve are over a pound of wild low-bush blueberries. Other fruit wine labels at the winery may actually contain up to 2 to 3 pounds of fruit.
At Flag Hill Winery in Lee, owner/winemaker Brian Ferguson is convinced making quality wine is almost entirely about ingredients.
He notes, “New Hampshire has a large quantity of incredible fruit—beyond grapes, with incredible apple orchards growing unbelievable fruit perfect for making excellent apple and apple-based wines. Some of the most interesting wines at the winery are our fruit wines. The chemistry of each fruit is so different, which leads us to different opportunities in winemaking; it’s really fun to play around with” the possibilities.
Averill House Vineyard in Brookline uses various fruits, both local and from neighboring states, blended together with grapes… yes, you read this right—grapes. This is a perfect example of how winemaking is a poetic blend of science and art to create unique wines. The winemakers at Averill House Vineyard say they love mixing blueberry, strawberry, currant, blackberry, raspberry, blood orange, cranberry, and cherry to a long list of wines produced at the winery. Their True Blue Blueberry Wine is made with blueberries from Mike McGuire at Hurricane Hill in Mason, N.H., and then aged in American Oak barrels. A seasonal favorite is their Cherry Wine, which is blended with… surprise!—A&E Cold Brew Coffee from Nashua. This label is named Victoria's Day, and it’s one of many wine labels that surely perk an interest from consumers.
The New Hampshire Niche
The state’s drink local and sustainable movements pair well with fruit wines. In fact, New Hampshire’s niche allows local production of fruit wines from their own or neighboring orchards and fields. Overall, these wines are promoted as special offerings within each region.
In addition to its ciders, meads, and grape varietals, most wineries in New Hampshire also offer fruit wines. In order to experience all of the great wineries located throughout the granite state, check out the article “Travel in the Live Free State of Wine” and also download or pick up the NHWA winery passport, available at each participating winery. If you’re driven to win, bring your passport to each member winery in New Hampshire to collect a special prize for visiting them all.