What Is A Michigan Fruit Wine?

We haven’t talked wine in awhile, have we, friends? I guess I should set aside my glass and start typing instead…

I’ve had a lot of talks with customers at the Winery lately on fruit wines, specifically cranberry fruit wines. Since the grape crop season fared very poorly this year, alternative fruit choices have been a talk among locals on how to produce some product. Though I don’t necessary agree that other fruits should be looked upon yet as there is plenty of time for vines to succeed in 2020, I do enjoy discussing different options that can be found across the tasting rooms of Michigan’s Great Southwest. And though the wine region is steadily gaining prominence in the wine industry as an area that grow numerous, successful varietals of grapes, it is no one’s surprise to see a fruit wine pop up on a menu here and there — it is tradition after all.

In the wineries around Southwest Michigan, you may find fruit wines labeled under  “Dessert Wines” or listed under “Fruit Wines”. Did you know that is due to a wide-spread debate on the term “wine”? Yes, studies have been done to prove whether wines of other fruits can carry the name “wine” among them. The general consensus is that wine can only be made from grapes. Thus if a drink is made from another type of fermented fruit, it must be named “fruit-wine” rather than simply “wine.”

If you venture to Europe, you will never find the word “wine” on another fruit’s beverage. If a fruit-wine is made in Europe, it is called a “fermented alcoholic beverage” instead. In the USA this does not seem to be as specific though. There are a lot of people out there who love their fruit-wines and could care less about the technicalities of their drinks’ names!

Basically, fruit wines are fermented alcoholic beverages made from a fruit base other than grapes. Additional flavors may be taken from flowers, herbs, and additional fruits.  Most fruits and berries have the potential to produce wine, but few foods other than grapes have the balanced quantities of essential wine-making components to produce a stable, drinkable wine. Some of the non-grape “wines” require added sugar to make them palatable and to increase the alcohol levels. As many winemakers prefer to make their wines in the most natural methods, adding so much sugar for taste is not always looked fondly upon. So traditionally, fruit wines have been popular with home winemakers.

List of possible fruit-wine bases:

*From Wikipedia

*From Wikipedia

Don’t get the idea that fruit-wines are beneath grape-wines. There are some truly delectable fruit-wines throughout the world! From elderberry wines to raspberry wines, to dandelion and peach, fruit-wines hold a weight in the wine industry of their own right. It would be difficult to enter a Michigan winery and not see a Michigan-grown fruit wine on their menu. Fruit-wines have become a staple in many fruit-growing states.

There are quite a few fruit-wines I could recommend to you that hail from my corner of the world such as 12 Corner Vineyard’s 100% cranberry wine or Round Barn’s plum wine. Though a dry-drinker myself, I enjoy my fair share of fruit wines throughout the year. Most of the local fruit wines are delicious on their own, but they also make great mixers or bases for sangria. And there hasn’t been a Friendsgiving hosted yet without a bowl of mulled cranberry wine on the counter.

For those coming to Southwest Michigan for wine tasting, I urge you to give some of these delicacies a try. No, they are not for everyone. Yes, they are typically sweet with high percentages of residual sugar. But they have been a traditional beverage throughout the state for centuries, meaning the recipes are tried and true. Step outside your dry palette and experience all the flavors this little area has to offer!

Happy drinking,

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