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September 29, 2013

GRAPE SENSE: Huber’s wine wins top honors at international wine contest

Indiana is on a roll.

For the second straight year, an Indiana wine won top honors at the prestigious annual Indy International Wine Competition in early August at Purdue University.

Huber’s Orchard, Winery and Vineyards took the honor for the competition’s top wine with its Vignoles. A year ago, River City Winery won the prize, also with Vignoles.

“I think Vignoles really hits a consumer sweet spot,” Ted Huber said in explaining the second straight Vignoles win. “Consumers want nice fruit but more and more without the sweetness.”

The wine comes in with a modest .73 percent residual sugar and a light 12 percent alcohol. The Vignoles is grown on the Huber 80-acre vineyard. Vignoles is a French hybrid grape that has been found to grow well in the Midwest.

Characteristically, the wine is semi-dry with low sugar and tastes of pineapple, honey and melon. On my palate, it was the honey and maybe a honeydew melon flavor that dominated the wine. Some wine drinkers not familiar with Vignoles might compare it to a Gewürztraminer. It has a bit of a floral characteristic on the nose but doesn’t overpower the wine. The wine can have an odd banana-like flavor that is, fortunately, missing from Huber’s wine.

“It’s always very well-received in our tasting room,” Huber says. “People are bashful about trying a semi-dry wine but pleased once they do. The tropical fruit on the palate makes it approachable. There’s nothing else quite like it. It really holds its own.”

Success is nothing new to Huber’s 80,000-case operation and tourist destination. “I think we’ve won something like 20 Governor’s Cups,” Huber said. The Indy International presents the Cup to the Hoosier winery with the most medals each year.

This year, Huber’s won winemaker of the year, given to the winery with the most gold medals. It also won the Eagle Award for the Best Rose Wine, Huber’s Catawba Rose.

Don’t dismiss the Indy International as just any competition. The organizers bill the competition as ‘the largest scientifically organized and independent wine competition in the United States. Judges come from across the county and all wines are tasted blind. This year, more than 2,500 wines were entered from 35 states and 15 countries.

“It all starts with agriculture — growing top quality grapes lead to award winning wines,” Huber said. “Southern Indiana has proven this many times with our ability to produce world class wines.”

Huber’s won double gold, the highest honor before the top wines are chosen, for Vignoles, Starlight White, Chamourcin and Raspberry wines. It won gold medals for six other wines, silver for nine wines.

Several Michigan and Illinois wineries also took home medals. (See  www.indyinter

national.org.)

Huber’s Vignoles ($14.99) represents a movement among several Indiana winemakers to reduce residual sugar while maintaining the fresh fruit qualities of their wines. The Vignoles is an outstanding summer sipper but would also be good with creamy cheeses or salty meats like prosciutto.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes every other week for 23 Midwestern newspapers. Read his wine blog at www.howardhewitt.net.

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