By Mark Gauert
City & Shore Magazine
I know Florida produces wine, so please don’t write.
I know some bottle tropical fruit here and call it “wine.” They ferment mangos and papayas and clementines, or whatever’s handy in the grove, and talk about vintage years and terroir and nose like it applies to mangos and papayas and clementines, etc., as much as it does to malbecs and pinots and chardonnays.
I also know there are “24 independently owned Certified Florida Farm Wineries throughout the state of Florida” actually growing grapes – not tropical fruit – for wine. I know this because I’ve visited the tryfloridawine.com website.
But, to me, Florida wine is the novelty wine you send – like bright yellow and orange boxes of citrus – to shivering out-of-state relatives during the holidays to show off how much better life here is than there. (“All this, and we have WINE, too?! Happy Holidays!”)
Your shivering out-of-state relatives open the bottle in the mail, swirl the “wine’’ in their stemware, and smile thinking of sunshine, warmer places and you. “So that’s what Florida wine tastes like!” they’d say. “I am happy that I now have this information.”
Then they’d pitch it and open a bottle from Argentina, France, California – even New York, Ohio, Virginia – where the alchemy of soil, precipitation and sunshine produce wines that go so much better with almost anything but powdered-sugar donuts. (Like I said, please don’t write).
We must face up to facts, Florida friends: We live in a great place. But if Florida produced a great wine they’d be drinking it by now on the Champs-Élysées or on Las Ramblas or along the Silverado Trail.
They are not.
But I’m going to crawl out on a grapevine here and declare that if Florida did have a great wine, it would almost certainly be an Albariño – the “Wine of the Sea” from Spain. I came to this revelation after extensive research (poolside) with excellent bottles of Martin Códax Rías Baixas, Laxas, Lagar de Bouza and Ramón Bilbao Rías Baixas, all 2015 vintages.
Now, before you write, consider these striking similarities between Florida and Spain:
Florida is a peninsula in the Atlantic. Spain is a peninsula in the Atlantic!
Florida is a Spanish word. España is a Spanish word!
Florida is a sunny vacation destination. Spain is a sunny vacation destination!
Florida is famous for seafood and shellfish. Spain is famous for seafood and shellfish!
Florida has Enrique Iglesias. Spain has Enrique Iglesias!
Your list may vary.
But, as I sampled these crisp, straw-colored and delicious wines, the number of similarities kept piling up. I got mostly pineapple flavors in my tastings, but, with some concentration, I could pick out a grove’s worth of tropical fruit flavors here. Mangos. Lychee. Even, yes, Florida grapefruit. (Spain also grows grapefruit!)
My advice would be to send your out-of-state relatives a few bottles of Albariño from Florida next holiday. They will think fondly of sunshine, warmer places and you.
And they won’t pitch it and open a bottle from somewhere else.