Ninety per cent of Michigan’s vineyards fall within this appellation in the state’s southwestern corner. This area is also the historic cradle of Michigan viticulture with commercial vineyards dating back as far as 1867. Since the region is part of the great Fruit Belt that produces most of America’s grapes for juice and jelly production, most of the area’s vineyards are planted to labrusca varieties like Concord and Niagara. Thus, the Lake Michigan Shore AVA wine grape acreage only amounts to a small percentage of its total, even though this acreage still represents nearly half of Michigan’s total wine grape production. Of the wine grapes now planted, vinifera varieties are a rapidly expanding portion of the portfolio. The broad AVA boundaries - which include the smaller Fennville appellation - extend as far as 45 miles inland from the lakeshore, and are relatively uniform in climate and soils. The so called "Lake Effect" of Lake Michigan tempers the otherwise extreme northern climate. The characteristic soil and topography of the AVA results from a glacial moraine, with its slopes giving vineyards increased air-drainage to the lake, reducing the danger of frost settling on vines. This AVA has a warmer growing season, up to two or three weeks longer than northwestern Michigan.
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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