Wine Guide & Timeline of Events

Learn more about the timeline of events that lead to the eventual migration of wineries to Missouri in the early 1800’s.

1837

German settlers established the town of Hermann on the banks of the Missouri River. Although too rocky for many crops, the ground around Hermann was well suited for growing wine grapes. A decade later, Hermann's wineries were producing more than 10,000 gallons of wine a year. Eventually, more than 60 wineries populated the small town. By the 1880s, wine lovers in America and Europe were enjoying two million gallons of Missouri wine each year.

1870s

A dangerous vineyard pest, the phylloxera louse, destroyed enormous tracts of vineyards in France. Missouri helped rebuild the European vineyards by sending phylloxera-resistant American rootstock to be grafted with French vine cuttings. The resultant vines proved extremely hardy and soon the French wine industry was back on its feet.

Late 1800s

Italian immigrants established vineyards in the St. James area of Missouri. Missouri's wine industry thrived at the turn of the century with about 100 wineries throughout the state.

1919

Prohibition dealt a near fatal blow to the Missouri wine industry. When the 18th Amendment was repealed 13 years later, little remained of the once strong industry. Negative after affects of Prohibition, in the form of high liquor taxes and license fees, lingered for decades and prevented the wine industry from reestablishing itself.

1960s and 1970s

The rebirth of the commercial wine industry in Missouri began with the restoration of several original wineries. The early pioneers worked hard to regain the former stature of the wine industry, amid a slowly changing cultural and regulatory environment.

1980s

A new tax on wine enabled the establishment of the Missouri Wine & Grape Program. A state viticulturalist was hired to assist in the restoration process and Missouri State University’s fruit experiment station began working with winemakers to determine grape varieties suitable for Missouri’s climate.

Augusta became the first federally recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Missouri in 1980. The wine regions around Hermann, the southwest Missouri Ozark Mountains and highlands, and the south-central region around St. James have also been designated as AVAs.

2000

The Missouri wine industry began the new millennium with vigor. The number of wineries increased and Missouri wineries began producing more diverse, complex and sophisticated wines; wines that easily earn top awards in national and international competitions.

2003

The Norton/Cynthiana varietal was passed in legislation as Missouri's official state grape.

2005

The Missouri Wine & Grape Board was formed. No longer an advisory Board, the Wine & Grape Board began directing the marketing and research efforts of the Missouri wine industry.

2006

The Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology was established. ICCVE, funded by the Missouri Wine & Grape Board, began conducting research on grape varieties and vineyard management techniques that contributed to the growth of the wine industry in Missouri and the Midwest.

Missouri Wine

The birth of Missouri Wine can be traced back to Gottfried Duden, a German immigrant who arrived in Missouri in 1824. Duden bought a plot of land and began recording the weather, growing conditions, and other information for three years; he then published this information in Germany. Fellow Germans read Duden’s description of fertile land and said that “it seems to me almost a fantasy when I consider what nature offers man here.”

It wasn’t long after Duden became published that German settlers began to push west with careful clippings from their old world vineyards. By 1855, there were 500 acres of vineyards within Missouri, and wine was being shipped to St. Louis and beyond. Italian immigrants also had a share in Missouri’s wine history. Some Italians ended up in the Ozark Highlands (after originally planning to settle in Arkansas), where they began to cultivate vineyards to keep the traditions of their homeland alive.

Railroads boosted the growth of Missouri Wine until the first transcontinental railroad when immigrants across the nation were getting California wine because the grapes were more similar to what Europeans were used to from the old country. Even with this set back, Missouri wine was still second to California until the beginning of Prohibition.

The addition of the 18th amendment dealt a fatal blow to the Missouri vineyards, virtually ruining families and their vineyards throughout 48 counties in Missouri. The only local vineyard to have survived Prohibition was St. Stanislaus Novitiate, located in St. Louis, because the owners continued to produce sacramental wine through the years.

There was a period of very slow growth after the Prohibition amendment was repealed, because many parts of Missouri were still legally dry, demand was low, and high taxes and licensing fees discouraged real growth in the industry. Little by little, Missouri wine vineyards came back, and now the tradition is flourishing once more.

Missouri is home to the country’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA), which is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States, distinguishable by geographic features. Missouri currently has four designated AVA’s, which include: Augusta AVA, Ozark Mountain AVA, Hermann AVA, and Ozark Highland AVA.

Wine How-to

Regardless of where your wine came from, knowing how to properly taste it is a great way to get the most out of the purchase. The following steps are easy to follow, and will help you enhance your knowledge and experience when tasting your wines.

Step 1: The Swirl

Why do people swirl wine in their glasses? When wine comes in contact with the air, it releases esters-volatile liquids that give the wine its aromatic qualities. Next time you have a glass of wine, pour the liquid into your glass until it’s half full, then give it a spin and let the wine breathe.

Step 2: The Sniff

One of the greatest pleasures of wine is its bouquet, or nose. In fact, much of what you think you taste in a wine is actually what you smell. Take a few seconds to draw in a deep breathe of your wine’s complex aromas. In other words, stop to smell the roses (or some of the other countless, wonderful aromas within every wine).

Step 3: The Sip

To experience the flavor of a wine to the fullest, take a small amount of the liquid and an equal amount of air into your mouth. Let the flavors dance on your tongue for a moment before swallowing. Then, savor the “finish” of the wine, or the pleasant aftertaste that lingers in your mouth after the wine is gone. Finally… REPEAT.

Wine Glossary

Acidity- all grapes have acids, which act as structural components of wine. If the acidity of a wine is too low, it will taste flat and dull, and if it’s too high, it will taste tart and sour.

Age- the process of maturing wine by allowing complex chemical reactions involving a wine’s sugars, acids, and phenolic acids to take place, which alters the taste, aroma, color, and other characteristics to change. Aging is usually done in a tank or barrel (see Bottle Aging for wine that is aged after bottling).

Aftertaste- Also known as the finish of a wine, it is the taste of the wine left in your mouth after swallowing and is a major determinant of a wine’s overall quality. High quality wines are generally those that have long aftertastes with pleasant aromas.

American Viticultural Area (AVA)- A designated wine grape-growing region of the United States distinguishable by geographical features. If an AVA is designated on a wine bottle, than at least 85% of the grapes used to make that wine must have come from that AVA.

Aroma- The scents that are present in wines, and is also called a wine’s “nose” or “bouquet.” It is through the aromas that wine is actually tasted, because many of the flavors of a wine are more distinguishable by smelling the wine rather than tasting. This is why many people sniff wine before they take a drink.

Bouquet-A wine’s combination of secondary aromas that form new aromas, developed in the post-fermentation and maturating process. A high-quality wine will most likely have a complex bouquet that is developed through years of aging.

Breathe- Mixing wine with oxygen to release aromas that become more pronounced as time passes. You let wine breathe by pouring it into another container and letting it sit. Red wines usually benefit from breathing the most before serving.

Balance-A wine’s culmination of alcohol, tannin, acidity, and residual sugar. A well-balanced wine has all of these components without one overpowering another. Acids should be balanced with sweetness, fruity is balanced with oak and tannin, and alcohol is balanced with acidity and flavor.

Blush Wine-A pinkish wine made from darker-colored grapes whose skins are removed after fermentation begins. These wines are light, slightly sweet or sometimes dry, and can be either white or rosé. Many people use rosé and blush interchangeably, but rosé is never a blend of red and white grapes (which can be done for blush wines). Therefore, all rosé wines are blush wines, but not all blush wines are rosé wines.

Bottle Aging- Maturing wine in the bottle as opposed to a tank or barrel. Some wines may improve in the bottle for ten or more years before reaching its full flavor potential. Every wine that ends up in a bottle obviously goes through some form of both bottle aging and bulk aging.

Corked- A wine fault that occurs when a cork becomes contaminated with TCA, and leaves the wine spoiled with an undesirable smell and taste. Many producers are now switching to screw caps or synthetic corks, which have fewer TCA contamination problems.

Decanting- Process of transferring wine from a bottle to another holding vessel. The purpose is usually to ventilate a young wine or to separate an older wine from any sediment.

Chambrer-A French term meaning to bring to room temperature.

Complexity- Wine that exhibits several layers of odors and flavors.

Crush- A term used to indicate a grape harvest.

Dry Wine- A technical term referring to the amount of residual sugars present in a wine.  Dry wines have up to 4 grams of sugar per liter. A dry wine is opposite of sweet wine and causes a puckering sensation in the mouth.

Enology- Also spelled oenology, this is the science of wine and winemaking.

Fermentation- The process of sugar transforming into alcohol. When grape juice interacts with yeast, it becomes wine.

Full Bodied Wine-Wine that is high in alcohol and flavors. Full-bodied wines have rich, complex, well-rounded flavors that linger in the mouth.

Glycerin- A thick, colorless, odorless compound that is a byproduct of the fermentation process.

Late Harvest- Refers to grapes left on the vines for an extra-long period, until the grapes begin to shrivel and the sugars concentrate. This term is used to describe dessert wines.

Lees- Sediment that is left in the barrel consisting of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, seeds, and other grape matter that accumulate during the fermentation process.

Legs- A term used to describe when wine sticks to the inside of a glass after drinking or swirling. The syrupy remnants indicate the body and texture of the wine.

Mash-The combination of pulp, skins and seeds of a grape that settle at the bottom of the fermentation tank or barrel.

Must- Freshly squeezed wine juice that contains wine skins, seeds and stems. This is the state of grapes before they go through the fermentation process.

Non-Vintage-A term used for wine that does not have a vintage year and did not come from a specific harvest. Non-vintage is most often used in regard to Champagne and sparkling wines.

Nose- This is a tasting term to describe the aroma of a wine.

Oxidation- A chemical changed that occurs in wine after it has been exposed to too much air. The wine will exhibit stale smells and turn a brown color.

pH Value-A numerical range of 2.9 to 4.2 that indicates the acidity levels of a wine based on how much hydrogen it holds. The smaller the pH value number, the higher the concentration would be. For example, a typical California Chardonnay would have a pH value of about 3.6.

Phenolics- natural compounds, including tannin and color pigments, found in grape skins and seeds.

Pressing-The process of extracting grape juice from the grape before the fermentation process.

Residual Sugar-The sugar that is leftover after the fermentation process.

Rosé-Used to describe a category of refreshing wines with a pink color that are made from red grapes. They are light to medium-bodied and are best to enjoy during the summer.

Sediment-Tiny particles that are remnants of the wine making process. Sediment can also form at the bottom of a bottle of wine over time, and will contain tannins and color agents. This is why a wine becomes lighter in color and less tannic as it ages.

Stabilization-Any number of wine-making procedures that make wine more stable. For example, filtering and fining are methods of stabilization used to improve and maintain the clarity of wine.

Tannin- Phenolic compounds usually found in grape skins and pits. They are astringent and provide structure to wine, leaving a bitter, dry, puckery feeling in the mouth. Over time, tannins die off, and this causes the wine to become less harsh.

Varietal- A slang term referring to a wine made from just one type of grape, and is named after that grape.

Vinification- The art and science of making wine.

Vintage- A particular year in the wine business that relates to a specific harvest.

Vintage Date- When the vintage date is printed on the label, it indicates that all the grapes used to make that wine were harvested during that year.

Wine Tasting-Tasting wine and describing the range of flavors, aromas, and other general characteristics of a wine. This may be done to examine the wine or simply for a more general, personal appreciation.

Yeast- a microorganism that triggers the fermentation process and converts grape sugars into alcohol. Yeast can be natural or commercial ingredient in the wine-making process.

Viticulture- The science and business of growing wine grapes.

Related Links:

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