Bennington, NH was the site of the first annual New England Rhubarb Wine Competition, held on May 31as part of the Bennington Rhubarb Festival. Entries came from New Hampshire and Maine.
Winnipesauke Winery from Wolfboro, NH won the Gold Medal with their Rhubarb Blush wine. Winemaker Heidi von Gotz Cogean, one of only four ‘NH lady winemakers,’ describes it as “a sweet wine with a distinct tart rhubarb finish”. The judges enjoyed the ‘aroma of honeysuckle and melon’ and the ‘taste of tropical fruit.’
Judges included Paul Hertneky, food and travel journalist, writer of food articles for Gourmet and Eating Well magazines, and author of Rust Belt Boyin 2016; Peter Eppig, wine blogger and leader of many wine tastings around Southern New Hampshire; and Robbie Palmer Hertneky, local wine enthusiast and retired Antioch University professor. They followed established guidelines for evaluating wines based on their color, clarity, aroma, taste, and aftertaste.
The making of rhubarb wine goes back centuries. Rhubarb was widely available in many climates and would reliably produce a good crop. With the addition of sugar and water to the rhubarb, natural yeasts would have fermented it into an alcoholic beverage – sometimes of dubious quality. Modern tastes dictate that wines be drier [less sweet] and more similar to wine made from grapes. A rhubarb wine today might not taste like the actual fruit and can be pleasantly compared to wine made from grapes. The craft brew industry is opening up the public’s palates to new tastes and the makers of rhubarb wine are joining in.
The New England Rhubarb Wine Competition will return next year. Several more vinyards have already said that they want to enter. The competition is open to amateur wine-makers as well.