When you drink a glass of vino from the University of Kentucky Winery, you won’t just get a pleasant buzz—you’ll also be helping the state’s commercial wine industry.
When you think about wine, you probably think about Italy or France—or maybe Northern California. But the University of Kentucky (UK), a Sullivan Foundation partner school, wants you to think about bluegrass country instead. UK students, faculty, staff and retirees can now buy wines grown and produced locally by the UK Winery—and available only online—with all proceeds going to support grape and wine research that helps to advance Kentucky’s wine industry.
The U.S. wine industry is valued at around $88 billion, while it’s a $364 billion market worldwide. In Kentucky, boosting the prospects of wineries can mean more jobs and possibly tourism dollars, especially if the wines can compete in taste with Californian or overseas varieties.
There are currently 74 commercial wineries in Kentucky. UK’s vineyard research at the Horticulture Research Farm, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, focuses on developing grape production practices that improve fruit quality and labor efficiency and reduce pesticide use. Researchers have evaluated more than 100 wine grape cultivars and numerous grapevine rootstocks for commercial viability.
UK’s wine production research identifies methods to produce wines that reflect Kentucky’s unique soil and climate. That work includes identifying and using native yeast and bacteria to conduct fermentation.
All UK wines are produced using only fruit grown at the Horticulture Research Farm. Currently, there are 15 white, rosé, red, sparkling and fruit wines available, with nine wines newly released.
Those new wines include the 2017 Quercus alba, a full-bodied white wine. Extended aging in oak barrels gives it a bourbon-ish flare. The 2017 Flora is a dry white wine with an aroma of melon, apple and floral notes balanced with an earthy spice.
Both new rosés are 2017 vintages. Saignée is a dry wine with a high acid taste, and Verona is an unfiltered dry rosé with an intense fruity aroma.
The latest red wines are all 2017 vintages. Querus rubra is a dry red wine aged for 12 months in new Minnesota oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville. South Farm Red is dry with a dense color and classic red wine texture and just enough tannin to make things interesting. Carbonic, a balanced white wine with low alcohol and moderate acidity, has low but well-balanced tannin and a slight bitterness.
Finally, the new sparkling wine, Chambourcin (2015), is similar in style to traditional champagne. Extended bottle aging in the presence of yeast provides a complex fruity-yeasty bouquet and a creamy mouthfeel. The 2017 Solidago is similar in style to dry/brut prosecco.
To wish to purchase wine through the UK Winery Web Store, you must be affiliated with the university. You’ll have to fill out a member registration form on the site, http://winery.ca.uky.edu/. After submitting an order, members may pick up their wines curbside at the UK Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington. Detailed descriptions of the wines are also available on the winery site.
This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the University of Kentucky website.