I joke about writing about wine from someplace not, broadly defined, wine country. As I say on this blog’s “About” page:
Tom lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky — which is not exactly the center of the wine universe, but oh well.
So it’s interesting that the September issue of Marvin Shanken’s Market Watch (print only) has a feature about Louisville as an emerging center of wine culture. Yeah, that’s right: Louisville.
Indeed, like other cities in the mid-south, Louisville has emerged as a significant and growing wine destination. Even in a bad economy, retailers are displaying $100 bottles of Bordeaux and California Cabernet Sauvignon and selling them with ease. In the 1980s there were a couple of wineries in the entire state of Kentucky. Today there are 64, with a local wine trail that competes evenly with the hallowed Bourbon Trail for tourist traffic.
Whether the article is sap for potential advertisers (Louisville is the home of booze behemoth Brown-Forman), you’d have to be a fool to deny what’s going on in this part of the country. The audience for wine is growing quickly, which helps distributors and retailers and out-of-state wineries as well.
But the really interesting thing is the growth that is being fostered by the local wineries, which are drawing people to the experience of wine more than wine itself. A result of that is that people begin to incorporate wine into more than their weekend travel plans, taking a few bottles home and eventually braving the chaos of the wine aisle at the local liquor store.
The American wine culture people like to talk about is growing out here, largely under the radar of the wine media and despite the derisive snort of wine know-it-alls. It is distinctly local, a terroir not just of land and climate but of culture as well. What it turns into, as time passes, is anyone’s guess. But you’d have to be a fool to dismiss what’s apparent everywhere you look.