The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








New Hampshire Wine Week. Courtesy of New Hampshire Liquor Commission.

New Hampshire Wine Week 

Monday, Jan. 23, 
through Sunday, Jan. 29 
For more information about this year’s winemakers and the most up to date schedule of Wine Week events happening throughout the state, visit 
Easterseals Winter 
Wine Spectacular
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 6 to 9 p.m. 
Where: Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown, 700 Elm St., Manchester 
Cost: $65. Purchase online. 

Granite State of Wine
A look at New Hampshire Wine Week

By Angie Sykeny

 More than 60 wine personalities from around the globe make the wintry voyage to the Granite State every year to participate in New Hampshire Wine Week, providing an opportunity for wine aficionados, casual wine drinkers and the wine-curious to learn from the winemakers themselves about what’s available in New Hampshire.

“We have a large wine consumer base in New Hampshire that really enjoys wine, and people in the wine industry from around the world are taking notice,” said Nicole Brassard-Jordan, director of marketing, merchandising and warehousing for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, which organizes the event. “Winemakers feel like our consumers are genuinely interested in how the wines are made and the stories behind them, so they enjoy spending time here at Wine Week, and they feel like it’s time well spent.” 
From Monday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 29, there will be wine tastings, wine pairing dinners, bottle signings, educational seminars and more happening throughout the state.
Spectacular event
The week centers around the annual Easterseals Winter Wine Spectacular, an expo-style grand tasting of wine and food, on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown. With over 1,300 wines and 1,500 attendees last year, the Winter Wine Spectacular has become the largest wine event in northern New England, and it’s going to be even bigger this year. 
“We’ll be expanding [from the ballroom] into the big expo room, which means we have space for more guests and wine and restaurant tables,” Easterseals New Hampshire Senior Director of Events and Corporate Relations Christine Pederson said. “So everyone who attended in the past, come this year and you are going to see more wine and food than ever before.” 
A wide spectrum of wines will be represented at the Winter Wine Spectacular, including red, white, rosé, sparkling and fruit wines from big and small producers, from various wine regions and in a range of prices. 
The event will also feature silent auctions and raffles for wine-related and other items, plus the Bellman Cellar Select VIP tasting room (sold out), where a limited number of guests will be granted exclusive access to some of the most high-end wines and food from local restaurants that are not available in the main tasting room. 
Pederson said she’s especially excited about the lineup of winemakers who will be at the event talking with consumers. 
“We get some really wonderful personalities, and they’re so passionate about wine. There are some who are fourth- or fifth-generation winemakers at a winery and they like to come talk about that family history behind it,” she said. “I think it’s amazing this New Hampshire event held in the dead of winter is attracting these wine all-stars from around the world.”   
A look at the winemakers 
Christof Hoepler of Hoepler Winery in Austria will be attending New Hampshire Wine Week for the first time this year. Since he took over the winery from his father 10 years ago he’s been involved in every aspect of the business, and he’s excited to come talk about everything that goes into producing the Hoepler wines that New Hampshire consumers enjoy.  
“I am a farmer, a businessman, the CEO, a salesman, head winemaker, chief strategist, head of technology, head of customer service, manager of 15 employees,” he said, “and throughout all of this I can never forget the soil, the grapes, the seasons and every minute detail and sensitivity that is required to connect these dots together to produce excellent wines.” 
Austrian wines are made in a cool climate and are typically light and fresh with high acidity. Because Austria doesn’t mass-produce its wines, Hoepler said, they are a truer reflection of the climate, region and year in which they’re produced than wines produced in many other regions. Hoepler Winery’s location on the Leithaberg Hills and banks of Lake Neusiedl has a unique climate and many different soil profiles, which allows Hoepler to harvest a variety of grapes to produce white, red, dessert and rosé wines, all at a high quality level. Most wineries in Austria, Hoepler said, can only produce a narrow selection of wines. 
Historically, Austrian wines haven’t had much of a presence on the international market, but Brassard-Jordan said she’s seen a recent influx of Austrian wines in New Hampshire that a small but growing customer base is excited about. Hoepler said now is an opportune time for people to start exploring Austrian wines. 
“The lack of awareness of both our [Austrian] wine heritage and quality by global consumers means that those in the know or open to trying something new get a fantastic price-quality payback,” he said. 
Fans of California wines will find a number of brands at New Hampshire Wine Week. Chris Benziger of Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma County will be returning for his second year at the event and said he’s looking forward to sharing his wine knowledge. 
“There will be a lot of agents and sales reps there, but if you want to talk to the real deal — someone who has been in the business for 35 years, who grew up farming and has dirt under their fingernails, so to speak — this is your chance to,” he said. 
Jon Emmerich of Silverado Vineyards will be coming from the other major wine region of California, the Napa Valley. He said he brings a unique perspective to Wine Week because he and his small staff do every step of their wine production in-house, from growing the grapes to producing and bottling the wines, a practice not typical of wineries the size of Silverado, which has an annual production of 75,000 cases. 
What will distinguish California winemakers from those of other regions at Wine Week, Emmerich said, is their innovative spirit. 
“In general, California winemakers are willing to look at new ideas and embrace new technology and new processes quickly,” he said. “I think that sets us apart. We aren’t stuck in a certain mindset and beholden to stodgy ideas about how wine should be made like some of the older wine regions. Many wine regions from around the world look at California and say, ‘Wow, those guys are dynamic.’” 
For Benziger, California is “the land of milk and honey” for making wine. 
“I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but we can make everything well here,” he said. “We have this incredible weather, and our geography is second to none for growing high-quality grapes.”
New Hampshire Wine Week will feature wines produced locally, too.
Lewis Eaton, president of the New Hampshire Winery Association, said many local wineries look forward to Wine Week as their pinnacle event of the year. 
“It’s a big focus for us,” he said.  “We talk about it in our meetings, about how important it is participate and to showcase local wines. It’s a good time to pump up all the Winery Association members, which is cool. I love that.” 
Eaton is also the owner and winemaker of Sweet Baby Vineyard in Hampstead and has been part of New Hampshire Wine Week since he opened the business in 2008. He said that in his experience with the event, he has seen New Hampshire winemakers contribute a style of wine that no other winemakers bring to the event.
“People see a lot of varietals that they recognize, but when they see our fruit wines, they’re usually a little surprised but eager to try them out because it’s something different,” he said. “We grow great native fruits here with a lot of flavor. It can’t be compared to anything else in the world. I think our fruit wines have as much character as our weather.”  
Trends to watch for 
One of the biggest trends in the wine world that Emmerich expects to see played out at New Hampshire Wine Week is a new and enthusiastic interest in the origin of wines, particularly a wine’s terroir and how capturing that can allow the consumer to experience another part of the world. 
“There are always these waves that go through the wine industry,” he said. “In the past it was all about superstar winemakers, but right now the focus seems to be on feeling a sense of place. I think you’ll see when you talk to the winemakers how they’re trying to give that to people. They’re telling their story and trying to capture what is unique about their little space in the world and reflect that in a bottle.”
Benziger said that he too has noticed people’s growing curiosity about the backstory of the wines they’re drinking, particularly related to the farming and winemaking practices used to produce the wines.
He’ll give a seminar during Wine Week about his winery’s method of biodynamic farming, a type of organic farming that aims to coexist with the natural state of the land. 
“We want to give our wine a deeper sense of place and a true sense of authenticity,” Benziger said. “We want it to have the fingerprint of where it’s grown while never taking away from the land. I think that kind of sustainability [practice] will become more prevalent and will be a continuing trend.” 
Eaton said people’s desire to feel a sense of place with a wine, along with a shift in priorities when it comes to cost, has been great for local wineries, which have often struggled because of their higher prices.   
“Consumers are definitely becoming more concerned with where their food and drinks come from, and more people are seeking out local products,” he said. “The other part of that trend is, people don’t mind spending on a quality product. They understand that it costs a little more for a local product to be produced, but they like knowing that their money is going to a place that they can go visit.”  
As people look for additional ways to experience and engage with wine, wine and food pairings are also growing in popularity. Hoepler said he has noticed lighter wines, particularly rosé wines, come to the forefront to complement current food trends. 
“The consumer is more and more eager to learn and experiment,” he said. “They enjoy pairing wines with food, and as food becomes more healthy and fresh, this plays to a fresher, lighter wine that enhances, not dominates the meal.” 

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