Indiana wine businesses, consumption grow as popularity increases

Generation Y fuels wine consumption increase

INDIANAPOLIS - Wine is big business in Indiana, with more Hoosiers enjoying a little red, white and rose in their everyday lives.

Experts say the growth in the popularity of wine is part of the foodie movement that is taking hold in Indiana.

"Wine consumption across the Midwest and especially Indiana is definitely increasing," said Ted Huber, the winemaker at Huber Winery in southern Indiana, now in its seventh generation. "Last year, we made over 100,000 gallons."

The fastest-growing demographic of wine drinkers in the U.S. is Generation Y, also known as millenials -- people between the ages of 19 and 36.

"We pride ourselves on being farmers first," said Dana Huber. "We find this demographic is very interested in being able to touch what they are about ready to purchase, and knowing that, we're able to capitalize on that trend."

Although Americans are consuming more win and drinking better-quality wine, they aren't necessarily drinking more expensive wine.

"I don't think you have to spend a lot of money anymore to get a quality wine," said Dave Poore, sommelier at St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis.

Poore said there is a connection, however, between price and quality.

"I'd say it goes hand-in-hand," he said.

To test that contention, we held a wine tasting at Vine & Table in Carmel. A panel tested two whites and four reds.

Panelists focused on the four Ss -- see, swirl, smell and sip.

"Generally, when you're wine tasting, you want to look at the color of the wine," said BethAnn Kendall, buyer for Vine & Table.

"If it's starting to get a little brownish or maroon at the edge, that means it's an aging wine," said Daniel Orr, owner and chef of Farm Bloomington .

Two chardonnays were tested, one rated by a top critic and one unrated. The panel's favorite was the unrated wine.

Just because a wine isn't rated doesn't mean it's not good. It just means the winemaker hasn't paid a lot of money to go through the rating process.

Experts admit that wine can be intimidating, even some of the most common terms, such as "tannins."

"You tend to experience tannins kind of on the sides of your mouth, the sides of your tongue, almost a drying effect," Poore said.

It's important to know tannins when pairing wine with a meal.

"If you have that same tannic wine with a nice, rich dish like a lamb chop that has that kind of crunchy fat on the outside or a Sunday roast beef or something like that," Orr said.

How about fruit on the nose?

"A lot of those components, when you talk about vanilla, those types of aromatics or flavors in fact can come straight from the barrel," Poore said.

After the hit movie "Sideways" took off at the box office in 2004, wine sales surged. In particular, pinot noir sold well. The main character in the movie had an obsession with that variety.

"Pinot noir sales increased 45 percent, so it had a real drastic effect," said Tamara Belgard, a wine enthusiast.

The romanticism of wine can't be denied. Belgard described it as "just getting the exposure to other worlds basically in their glass."

Huber Winery grows acres of grapes to produce a wide variety of wine that will appeal to just about anyone's palate.

"What I would suggest is find something that you like and drink it," Orr said with a chuckle.

Earlier this month, the federal government designated a big part of south-central Indiana as an American Viticultural Area, making it now recognized as one of the premiere winemaking areas in the U.S.



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