Jacob’s Juice: The Missouri Wine Technical Group
We’re very happy to welcome Jacob Holman, winemaker from Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport, Missouri and president of the Missouri Wine Technical Group, as a new columnist. This is his first column for Midwest Wine Press.
The Missouri Wine Technical Group (MWTG) is an industry based organization formed in 2008. As one of the founders and the current president of the organization I’m pretty passionate about the potential of a group like this to help winemakers, not just in Missouri, but across the Midwest.
The purpose is simple: to facilitate winemakers and cellar hands getting together in a comfortable environment to try and help each other make better wine.
To be eligible for membership you have to be associated with a commercial winery holding a license.
Our Missouri group gets together 3 to 4 times a year and each meeting focuses on one varietal. Group members are encouraged to submit unfinished wine of that variety along with a form we have developed. This is one of the nice things about the forum: everyone has to write out some of the viticulture practices and chemistry behind their wine including everything from how the grapes are grown to additives and ageing protocols.
The whole premise of the group is to put your product out there – that wine you’re so proud of – and in a blind tasting watch the reaction of people who actually know what they’re doing and what’s going on in the wine.
The Missouri wine industry is relatively tight nit, but I did have a certain amount of anxiety at the very first meeting back in 2008 when it was time for my Norton wine to be assessed blind.
What I remember most is my reaction. It wasn’t my favorite! It wasn’t a flawed wine but I preferred what some of the other winemakers had done in their Nortons. The wines that I liked better than ours all tended to have a slightly higher alcohol level and were a lot more heavily oaked, and using new oak.
“I did have a certain amount of anxiety at the very first meeting back in 2008 when it was time for my Norton wine to be assessed blind.”
So a direct result of that technical group blind tasting was that my colleagues and I at Les Bourgeois rethought what we were doing with our Norton.
We’ve also seen wines from a number of wineries change for the better during the years they’ve been part of the group. Sometimes the issue is cellar practices, things as simple as keeping tanks topped and paying more attention to SO2 levels. Or it can be more nuanced things like oak aging.
I can’t reveal who those wineries are because another premise of the group is that the meetings are closed so everyone feels relaxed and can talk freely.
But once a year the MWTG holds a forum at the annual Midwest Grape and Wine Conference and this meeting is a little different because it is open to the public. This offers people that may not be group members a chance to participate, see what the meetings are all about and hopefully join the organization.
This concept is paying off. A non-member from the Kansas wine industry attended one of our open meetings last year and brought the idea home. He contacted me and I gladly went out and spoke to their winemakers and grape growers about the ins and outs of starting such an organization. After the meeting they voted to form The Kansas Wine Technical Group.
This is good news for our group because one of our long term goals is to collaborate with other Midwest states. The way I see it, the problems we face here in Missouri are not that different from the rest of the Midwest. Having a dialogue with winemakers from other states could not only increase wine quality but build a since of community throughout the region.
“It is our hope that every Midwestern state will form their own technical group”
It is our hope that every Midwestern state will form their own technical group and that one day all of these groups will come together at the Midwest Grape and Wine Conference for one large tasting.
So now for a little shameless marketing! If you are planning on going to the Midwest Grape and Wine Conference Feb 7th through the 9th, we will be holding our open meeting with a focus on Chambourcin as the varietal. The meeting will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday the 7th and there is still room for new attendees.
And if you would like to speak with me directly about forming a group in your state or just have questions about the MWTG please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.