Passion and Old World Techniques Drive ‘Exponential’ Growth of New Hampshire Wine Scene

Illustration by Kavel Rafferty

With meandering mountain walks, attractive autumn foliage and bucolic getaways a-plenty, New Hampshire is often most associated with simple, rustic New England charm. But you can’t expect a place with a motto like “Live Free or Die” to be easily defined. Just take a look at its complex wine scene.

The state’s modern viticulture took root in the 1980s and early ’90s, and while growth has been exponential, it’s impossible to avoid its youth. Heck, the New Hampshire Wine Association is still finalizing the petition to officially establish its first American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Facts About the New Hampshire Wine Industry

Dr. Peter Oldak is widely known as the “Father of New Hampshire Wine”

More than 30 wineries opened in just 30 years

Yet, wine producers here don’t bemoan their fight for recognition. Instead, the collaborative group speaks passionately about educating visitors on the unique offerings of cool-morning harvests and a diversity of native fruits.

“If we can get the right lenses on visitors from the beginning, if they know what they’re here for, the world opens up,” says Brian Ferguson, proprietor of Flag Hill Distillery & Winery.

Three Prominent Wineries to Know

Flag Hill Distillery & Winery, Hermit Woods Winery & Deli and LaBelle Winery

Important Wine Grapes

Cayuga White, De Chaunac, La Crescent, Marechal Foch and Seyval Blanc

One thing you can expect from New Hampshire’s producers is precise, aromatic white wines. Yes, there’s Riesling, but the state has also refined grapes like Cayuga White and La Crescent. As these and other cold-climate hybrids gain fans, wineries here are poised to excel.

“People are surprised by how technical these wines can be,” says Ferguson. “What we do is finesse, ballet versus breakdancing. We can calibrate our temperatures to get everything just right.”

Other Notable Fruits

Apples, Blueberries, Blackberries, Elderberries and Honeyberries

New Hampshire can also challenge everything you thought you knew about fruit wine. Sweeter varieties abound, but dry bottlings are ready for an introduction. Hermit Woods Winery & Deli leads the way with its food-friendly offerings from local strawberries, blueberries, elderberries and more.

“We’re using Old World techniques and changing hearts and minds,” says Bob Manly, a partner at Hermit Woods. “It validates what we’re doing when a [visitor] from the Rhône Valley tries our wine and says, ‘Wow, this is special.’ ”

Published on September 28, 2020
Topics: Wine and Ratings