The first approved viticultural area in Arkansas was granted on June 29, 1984 and named Altus, after the town where the majority of the state's wineries were concentrated. This area has long been known as the “wine capital” of the Natural State.
The Altus appellation is a 5 mile plateau which runs between the Boston Mountains and the Arkansas River on a bed of high acid, gravelly loam soil. Oenologists have long agreed that these soils are particularly suited for viticulture. The area is kept to a moderate climate during the growing season as cool airs funnel downwards into the river and canal system which lays beneath the vineyards. During the winter months, vineyards are shielded from harsh climatic effects by the prominent Boston Mountains.
At this time, there are five wineries working mostly with the area's most notable varietals, Cynthiana (Norton) and Niagara as well as a number of different French hybrids. Combined, these wineries are producing close to a million gallons of wine per annum.
Tannat, a varietal from Southwest France and of great tannic composition, has increasingly been embraced by US winemakers. But in the America's it has been Uruguay that has placed Tannat at the top of the order. Appellation America assembled our tasting panel to explore what is happening with Tannat across the US and included several Tannat releases from Uruguay.
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