Vermont is the focus of our 16th episode here at the Make America Grape Again podcast. Barely more than a stub of a Wikipedia page, Vermont so far has only seven wineries, and a very recent beginning, with the first commercial vineyard there being only since 1997. But boy howdy, have they been running to catch up with the rest; the wine we selected for the first episode examining the viticultural industry in this state has absolutely blown me away. It is not every day that I meet a wine that can single-handedly make me doubt my commitment to Arizona viticulture, but the 2016 Tectonic from Iapetus Wine (a label from Shelburne Vineyard) has done just that.
The 2016 Tectonic is our vintage introduction to a number of new wine concepts, as well as a continuation of some themes we explored in our last episode about Wisconsin wine. This vintage is an all-natural, skin-contact wine made from a grape called La Crescent. We touched upon natural wines a little bit in our first California episode; to explore the idea further, these wines can be roughly defined (since there is no official legal definition as of yet) as wines that are farmed as organically as possible, and are made/transformed without adding or removing anything while in the cellar. The idea is that these wines are fermented using the natural yeast growing on the grape, without any additives or processing aids, and that intervention in the fermentation is kept to a minimum. These wines are not fined, nor filtered, and it can be argued that the result is a wine that is “alive”–still full of naturally occurring microbiology and the truest expression of the terroir of a region possible.
Like the Seyval Blanc we examined in our last episode, La Crescent is a complex American hybrid varietal, and one which is very recent; only developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 2002. The genetics for this grape look like something out of a Habsburg family tree: with ancestry including Vitis vinifera, riparia, rupestris, labrusca and aestivalis. Saint-Pepin, and a Muscat of Hamburg crossing feature among this grape’s progenitors. (I really wish I still had the genetics diagram I referenced when recording this wine–I lost it somewhere. Alas.) Also like Seyval Blanc, this grape is a white wine varietal; to make a Skin-contact wine such as the 2017 Tectonic (also known as Amber wines or Orange wines), the grape skins are not removed from the must, (unlike in as in typical white wine production) and instead remain in contact with the juice for days or even months. As in red wines, these skins provide pigments and tannins to the resulting vintage. This is actually a very ancient style of wine, dating back at an absolute minimum of about 6,000 years in the Caucasus Mountains.
That, in my mind, is one of the coolest things about the 2016 Iapetus: it is made from an ancient style of production for one of the newest-developed grape varietals out there. I look forward to hopefully trying more wines from this label: Ethan Joseph is doing some pretty cool stuff up there in Vermont.
While I first encountered this wine via a #winestudio event on Twitter, this bottle was provided to me through the kindness of Elizabeth Krecker who purchased this wine for me directly from the vineyard when she visited New England earlier this year.