Nowadays Florida is more well known for palm trees, nice beaches, Disney World, and Spring Break; but once upon a time over 500 years ago settlers were attempting to turn it into a major wine producing location.
Like most states of the southeastern US, the native muscadine grape grows quite well but has never been accepted worldwide the way other international varietals were. Several attempts were made to use Vitis vinifera vines but all of them eventually failed. Florida was just too much of a tropical humid climate. Eventually, there was some limited success with crossed hybrid varietals, but even their success was limited.
After Prohibition, Florida began picking up the pieces of its wine industry like the rest of the country. Wines continued to be made from muscadine and other fruit-based wines also became quite common. Some Vitis vinifera grapes now grow in Florida due to modern technology, but it is still very much on a limited basis.
For my Florida tasting, I decided to try 2 different muscadine wines from Chautauqua Winery located mid-Florida Panhandle. The first wine was their Carlos Muscadine, a white grape, which the winery itself compares to Scuppernong muscadine, one of the oldest used for making early American wines. This was a very sweet wine which isn’t typically something I prefer too much, but I adjusted to it after a few tries. Its aroma was quite fragrant with a range of fruits (apple, pear, maybe some peach) and a sweet finish similar to a Riesling (just sweeter). I didn’t notice too much of the unique taste that is often mentioned for muscadine wines. It’s possible that the sweetness and floral properties masked it. This is a good wine for a hot Summer day and lounging by the ocean. Just make sure to bring some water to balance out the sweetness!
My second wine was their Noble Muscadine, a red grape. This wine was equally sweet as the Carlos, and its aromas reminded me opening a can of cranberries with a hint of the muscadine flavor that I’m accustom to. The overall taste and finish of this wine reminded me of sangrias, which makes me wonder if the those found at the supermarket are sometimes using muscadine grapes. It could also just be that this was a chilled sweet red wine and perfect for a hot day the same way sangrias are enjoyed.
I slow-cooked some chicken madras with potatoes and carrots and these wines went very well with the medium spiciness. I often find that most Indian curries do well with sweet wines, so these paired well for me. Overall, I believe I enjoyed the Carlos Muscadine the most. Its fragrance went well with the taste and washed down my spicy curry nicely.
You can see a list of states I’ve reviewed on my main 50 Wines From 50 States page.