1 of 2
2 of 2
Doug Frost: mug
A Tough Job
My job holds endless fascination for some people. I recently received an e-mail from a friend about becoming a judge at one of my wine competitions. “Sure,” I told my friend, “you’re welcome to give it a try, but tasting two hundred or so wines in eight hours (do the math) is grueling work.” Most competitions require a couple of days, and it’s enough to put most people off wine for a couple of months. I’m not trying to discourage my friend from becoming a wine judge; I’m just making sure he knows what’s in store.
In nearly three decades of wine judging, several questions have come up; one of them arrived just yesterday. It’s a question that makes me go crazy: Are there any good wines made in Missouri? Ten or twenty years ago, my response was a patient elucidation of the virtues and characteristics of Missouri’s many different wines. Yesterday, I found myself staring at my questioner, wondering if she’d been on a desert island since the last century. “Yeah, lots of them,” I offered. “Well, they’re all sweet, right?” was the reply. It was enough to put me off answering wine questions for a couple of months. First off, the answer was no. Some of the best wines made in Missouri are dry wines, and certainly the idiosyncratic Norton varietal has many, many dry versions in the market. Chambourcin is another dry red wine that I happily toss into blind tastings with national or international wine judges.
But what the heck is wrong with sweet wine? Especially in the depths of summer’s sticky warmth, with the dog panting to the rhythm of neighborhood lawn mowers, I look forward to a bottle of well-chilled, fruity white wine. The grapes that grow in middle America tend to be tangy and tart, and a dose of fruity sweetness can offset that potency in pleasing and refreshing ways.
Grapes such as Vignoles, Vidal Blanc, and particularly Traminette are often more intriguing when they carry a ripe peach or even tropical note to accompany their tart, lemony personalities. Sure, there are plenty of so-so Missouri wines that I’ve been subjected to over the years. Sure, there are ho-hum wines that a judge must endure in a long day of a wine competition. I try to judge the wines on their quality: interest, character, and above all, balance. And I have found plenty of Missouri wines that strike such poise—and have offered them gold medals as a result.
-By Doug Frost