If there’s a phrase to sum up the first Arkansas Quality Wine competition, it would be “our cup runneth over.”

The May 19 wine competition, held in the food science facilities at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center, drew 52 entries from eight of the state’s 16 commercial wineries.

In this phase, expert wine judges from Arkansas and Texas evaluated sensory attributes such as color, aroma, flavor and mouth feel. The wines will also undergo further analysis, to look at characteristics such as alcohol, volatile acidity and sulfur dioxide levels. After analysis, wines that earned gold or silver medals in the wine competition will be eligible to carry the Arkansas Quality Wine seal.

“My goal for this first annual wine competition was to have 30-50 commercial wines entered, so this exceeded my expectations for the number of wines, especially considering the constraint that the wine had to be made with 90 percent Arkansas-grown grapes,” said Renee Threlfall, director of the Arkansas Quality Wine program. Threlfall, a Ph.D., is also a research scientist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “There were more red wines than I expected but a good representation of grape varieties and styles of wine, typical for a competition.

“More than 60 percent of the wines that were submitted to the wine competition earned a medal, showing us that the Arkansas wine industry has quality wines for our wine consumers,” she said.

Her work is part of research done by division’s Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

The competition is part of AQW’s efforts to set quality standards for Arkansas-made wine, provide professional development for growers and winemakers and entice consumers to taste the fruit of the state’s vines and their unique flavors.

The program was established last year as part of a project funded by a specialty crop block grant from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

Threlfall invited in three judges, Justin Scheiner, Ph.D., assistant professor and viticulture specialist from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Michael Cook, viticulture program specialist for north Texas with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Lorri Hambuchen, author and owner of The Wine Center in Little Rock.

Scheiner said he continued “to be impressed with the breadth and quality of wines coming out of Arkansas. The judges were presented with high quality muscadine, hybrid, and vinifera wines produced in a wide range of styles.”

Cook said he and the other judges “evaluated a substantial number of entered wines, which made our jobs even tougher as there were many well-made wines to score.

“To my surprise, there was a wide range of wine styles submitted, from dessert to dry, fruity to rustic, deep purple to orange to pink to amber,” he said. “Simply put, there was lots of variety. I was also pleased to see such diversity with the types of varietal and wine blends. Wines were made from muscadines, hybrids, European varieties, or a blend of one or more.

“You never know what you are going to find when evaluating wines submitted to a brand-new wine competition,” Cook said. “I was impressed with the quality and in some cases, individuality of some wines.

The wines were scored on a variation of the 20-point system created by the University of California at Davis. Wines earning 17-20 points earned gold medals, 15-16 points earned a silver medal, and 13-14 points earned a bronze medal.

The Winners

Best of Show — Post Winery, Prophecy

Best White Wine — Mount Bethel Winery Viognier

Best Red Wine — Post Winery, Prophecy

Best Rose/Blush — Post Winery, Pink Muscadine

Best dessert/fortified wine — Keel’s Creek Winery, 2014 port, Big C

Double gold medal winners

To earn a double gold, a wine must earn a gold medal vote from every judge. Two wines earned that honor:

Post Winery Blue Parachute

Mount Bethel Winery Viognier

Single gold medal winners

Keel’s Creek Winery, 2014 port, Big C

Mount Bethel Winery, Vignoles

Post Winery, Prophecy

Post Winery, Pink Muscadine

Silver medal winners

Chateau Aux Arc, 2018 Cynthiana

Chateau Aux Arc, 2018 Dahlem’s Red

Keel’s Creek Winery, Sweet Spring

Keel’s Creek Winery, 2018 Chardonel

Post Winery, 2018 Chambourcin

Post Winery, Ives Noir

Post Winery, White Muscadine

Rusty Tractor Vineyards, Enchantment

Rusty Tractor Vineyards, Valvin Muscat

Rusty Tractor Vineyards, Vignoles

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars Cynthiana

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars white muscadine

Bronze medal winners

Chateau Aux Arc, 2015 Cynthiana

Chateau Aux Arc, 2016 Cynthiana

Chateau Aux Arc, 2016 Splinters

Chateau Aux Arc, 2016 Dragonfly Red

Chateau Aux Arc, 2016 Altage

Mount Bethel Winery Red Blend

Mount Bethel Winery White Muscadine

Post Winery Red Muscadine

Post Winery Sherry

Rusty Tractor Vineyards Chambourcin

Rusty Tractor Vineyards 2019 Cynthiana

Rusty Tractor Vineyards Traminette

Rusty Tractor Vineyards Muscadine

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars Red Muscadine

Threlfall said all the wines, medal or not, will get a thorough analysis by her graduate student, Amanda Fleming.

“This is part of her master’s thesis research and will help us determine what’s going on in the wines that did not earn a medal,” Threlfall said.

“Here we will be looking at color attributes like red color, browning and turbidity, as well as acidity, alcohol, residual sugar, dissolved oxygen, stability, volatile acidity alcohol and sulfur dioxide levels,” Threlfall said.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Arkansas Quality Wine program.

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