So What’s “Midwest Wine” Anyway?
We have received several comments about the name of our publication, Midwest Wine Press. Some readers have correctly noted that there is no such thing as ‘Midwest Wine.” As the publisher, I have to agree that the term ‘Midwest Wine” is more complex and far-reaching than any one moniker can capture.
Creating a succinct definition for the wines produced between the Finger Lakes and the Rockies is a challenge. But establishing a regional identity for Midwest wine is important. No wine producing region on earth is known for 30 varietals; yet that sometimes seems to be the fragmented situation that we have here in our corner of the wine world.
In fairness, some state wine associations have had success with creating more specific identities for regional wines. Indiana’s ‘Try on Traminette” program and Missouri’s Norton campaign are examples of ‘branding” Midwest wine. There also are signature wines that define an appellation or a regional festival. But to the best of my knowledge, none of these smaller marketing efforts is consistent or ongoing.
At present, the Midwest wine industry is mainly decentralized with wineries and wine trails clustered together in widely separated rural areas. To attract visitors from outside their immediate areas, wineries will need to continue to work together and market together. Tourism is proven to increase when strategies like advertising, websites and visitor information centers are executed in a coordinated fashion. Working together, wineries, wine associations and universities can create more demand and awareness about the quality of regional wine than they can working alone.
A marketing expert might advise combining all our Midwest wine producing areas into one massive powerhouse region. It’s hard to envision this type of consolidation occurring. Many wineries in the Midwest are perfectly happy being primarily or exclusively local. In addition, there’s the circular hybrid versus vinifera debate that seems to divide certain parts of the industry. In our opinion, there is room for both newer varietals and old world wines in our region.
So I must admit that I cannot yet define Midwest Wine, despite having visited scores of wineries from Ohio to Iowa and from Kentucky to Wisconsin. However, when several Eastern Ohio winemakers suggested that we call our publication ‘Great Lakes Wine News” I was tempted to call our graphic designer and tell him to start over.
I love the Great Lakes. The big lakes are the #1 natural resource of our region and they’re one of the few things you can see when the Midwest is photographed from space. However, there’s a lot of top-notch grape growers and winemakers who are doing amazing things in our region without the benefit of any lake effect.
But, upon reflection, one thing I have noticed logging thousands of miles visiting Midwest wineries is that there’s usually fresh water on or near the vineyard. Sometimes it’s just the little stream or creek downhill from the vines that carries the cold air away in those sensitive weeks each spring and fall. Fresh water also frequently falls from the sky here and percolates through our many soil types giving our wines world-class minerality and character. (And we don’t freak out because of a little rain, like some places.)
So maybe it’s fresh water, sometime in amounts greater than we would like, that defines our region as a grape growing and wine making mecca. And like the thousands of little tributaries that combine to create a great river, thousands of people are working hard every day to advance our wine industry and keep it moving forward. That too is the goal of Midwest Wine Press.