Tropical Wines

Tropical WinesEarlier we reviewed some of the world’s great wine-tasting destinations, but what if the tropics are your destination of choice. Not to worry, tropical wines are gaining popularity.

Grape production in tropical climates has changed from a “horticultural curiosity to grapevines becoming the most widely grown temperate fruit in the tropics,” according to International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) “Developments in the Production of Table Grapes, Wine and Raisins in Tropical Regions of the World.” Tropical areas with the highest grape production include: India, Brazil, Yemen, Peru, Thailand, Colombia, Tanzania, and Venezuela.

Areas best suited to grape production have a reliable dry period of at least three months and average minimum temperatures above 59 degrees. To reduce bunch rot, overhead trellises are a common form of vine training along with the use of plastic shelters or plastic, open-sided houses to protect grapes from rain.

Hot Climate Winemaking

Monsoon Valley Wines come from the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard in Thailand. They report that over 60 new wineries have been established during the last 15 years, bringing the total to 90 as of 2008. (10 Top Reasons why tropical viticulture and hot climate winemaking is rapidly progressing 1980-2008)

The report attributes improvement in grape quality to “two season – one crop” cultivation practices along with other appropriate techniques that suit the climate rather than trying to copy what “old world” wineries have done. Other factors for success include: cooperation among viticulturists and winemakers regarding vineyard design, choice of cultivar, and marketing; positive economic development in tropical areas, especially in Asia; globalized spread of exotic cuisine and drinks coupled with increased demand; and innovation in winemaking rather than attempting to replicate the past.

Tropical Fruit Wines

A purist may pooh-pooh the idea of wine made from anything but grapes, but there are also plenty of other fruits used in wine making. In the Philippines, rice, sugar cane, coconut, and coffee are used in wine production, according to USA Today’sWineries in the Philippines.”

Of course, rice is the basis of sake, a drink gaining popularity in both consumption and production in the U.S. Rice loves tropical climates to the degree that grapes hate it.

For tropical wines closer to home, Florida offers more than orange juice. Florida Tropical Fruit Winery offers over 43 different types of tropical fruit wines, including those made with citrus, berry and stone fruits, as well as tropical fruits. Its tropical fruit selections include banana, passion fruit, pineapple, and mango to name a few.

NOLA Tropical Winery began in New Orleans and San Antonio and is known as “beyond the grape.” It produces all-natural fruit wines without grapes or wooden barrels that range from totally dry to sweet and “run the gamut from dry reds and whites to a host of semi-sweets, dessert wines, specialty wines, port, sherry, and the First Wine of the South, muscadine.”

No matter the degree to which purists and wine snobs may shun anything called a wine that doesn’t evolve from grapes, tropical wines have a following and may well be gaining ground on its traditional cousin.