Judges put Alabama wines to the taste test

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Here's a bit of Alabama history for you. In 1880, state wineries produced some 423,000 gallons of wine.  That's enough wine to make the state the 8th largest producer in the country.  Unfortunately prohibition completely dried up Alabama's wine industry.

In 1979, the Perdido Vineyard near Mobile was a new beginning. Now there are 17 wineries in the state and another dozen brewers of cider and mead (a wine made from honey) to turn out more than 31,000 gallons annually.

Obviously producing wines in Alabama is not a hobby, it's a business.  Wine drinkers want to know which wines are the best?  Which wine is the "Best of the Best?"  This year for the 3rd time, the dozen judges in the Alabama Commercial Wine Competition tasted their way to answers for both those questions.

This year's judging took place on July 22nd at 1892 East Restaurant & Tavern in Huntsville's Five Points.

It was fun, but not easy. While everyone knows what Chardonnay tastes like and might even have a grasp of the glory of a good Muscadine wine, grapes like the "Norton" and the "Black Spanish" are something a little less common.  As it turns out, they're very drinkable.

WHNT News Director, Denise Vickers and Morning News Co-Anchor, Steve Johnson know that for a fact, because they were both judges in the competition.  Denise for the 2nd time, while Steve was a beginner.

After five hours of smelling, sipping and comparing, Denise and Steve helped choose 24 Gold Medal wines, 21 Silver Medal wines and 7 Bronze medal wines.  And yes, there is a "Best Wine of the Year."  What is it you ask? You'll have to wait just a little longer to find out.  All the winners will be announced In September and you can be part of the excitement.

Make plans now to be at the  Big Spring Crush wine event on September 16th at Big Spring Park in Huntsville.  Alabama wines won't be the only ones featured, but the top 7 wineries will show off their best bottles.  If you want to taste a "Norton" or a "Black Spanish," this will be your chance.

For Big Spring Crush ticket information click here.