\u201cA very strong bias against sweet fruit wine exists and is mostly deserved,\u201d says Michael Terrien, co-owner of Bluet, a producer in Maine that makes a wild blueberry sparkling wine. \u201cFruit wines are often made by adding lots of cane sugar, both to jack the alcohol and to sweeten the wine. Large sugar additions make it very difficult\u2026to represent the complexity and character of the fruit.\u201d\r\n\r\nRecently, however, serious vintners, inspired by American history and modern maker trends, have begun to ferment local fruit beyond typical wine grapes in dry styles. The results are balanced, thoughtful wines that might surprise traditional wine lovers.\r\n\r\nFrom traditional-method blueberry bubbles to fermented apples that taste a lot like Chardonnay, a new era of fruit wines has arrived.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe History of Fruit Wine in America\r\nArchaeological digs prove humans will ferment anything to make alcohol. In America, the \u201canything\u201d is typically fruit.\r\n\r\nFruit wines have long played a role in America\u2019s agricultural history. Early homesteaders used yeast to preserve seasonal berries into belly-warming beverages.\r\n\r\nThroughout the period of European colonization of the Americas, settlers expressed their love of grape-based wines with fruit from the native Vitis riparia varieties. However, not satisfied to only use North American grapes, many growers began to experiment with importing European Vitis vinifera vines, a trend later championed by Bordeaux wine-advocates like Thomas Jefferson. These vines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and many others that continue to produce America\u2019s most popular wine grapes today.\r\n\u201c[The wild blueberry] is very good for making wine due to its natural acidity and balance, especially wines that suit the changing 21st-century palate that favors the natural, authentic, low alcohol, local and healthy.\u201d \u2014Michael Terrien, co-owner, Bluet\r\nOf course, the building blocks of grapes differ from those of other fruits. Red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon embody the holy trinity of acid, sugar and tannin. Unlike, say, a peach, grapes ripen with enough natural sugar to achieve a minimum 11% alcohol by volume (abv), with freshness and structure informed by acid and skin tannin.\r\n\r\nHowever, through winemaking skills, fruit wines can resemble more traditional bottlings and still remain honest to their core ingredients. And like grape-based wine, raw materials matter. Rotten grapes equal bad wine. The same rule applies to plums and apples.\r\n\r\n\r\nWhy Now?\r\nThe \u201cdrink local\u201d movement dovetails nicely with fruit wines. These offerings allow producers to diversify their income from pure crop production, especially when a farmer\u2019s site is better suited to orchards than vineyards.\r\n\r\nNew Jersey grows a broad range of fruit. The state\u2019s wine industry brings in millions of dollars each year, says Bob Clark, who co-owns Chestnut Run Farms in Salem County with his wife, Lise. The couple have grown Asian pears and other fruits for 34 years.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe were grower/packers for the wholesale fruit trade for about 20 years,\u201d says Clark. \u201cWith that industry\u2019s global shift, our small farm could no longer compete with corporate importers. We experimented with various value-added products\u2026and switched over to wine about 13 years ago.\u201d\r\n\r\nClark attributes the success of Chestnut Run\u2019s dry Asian pear wines to his philosophy: He makes fine wine from fruit, not \u201cfruit wine.\u201d\r\n\r\nVintners that apply science in their cellars give consumers new reason to try these products. This may appeal to drinkers who seek to support local, sustainable beverages with lower carbon footprints. As Terrien says, wild blueberry fields don\u2019t need intensive management or inputs the way wine grapes do because they evolved on the landscape.\r\n\r\n\r\nCan\u2014and Should\u2014Wine Drinkers be Converted?\r\n\u201cAbsolutely,\u201d says Bob Manley of Hermit Woods Winery, in Meredith, New Hampshire. He says he regularly turns classic wine drinkers on to his New World fruit wines.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe convert them every day,\u201d he says. \u201cWe see people from around the world in our tasting room\u2026many of them serious wine drinkers. If we can get them to the tasting bar, we almost always make a convert out to them.\u201d\r\n\r\nCarlo DeVito, owner of Hudson Valley\u2019s Hudson-Chatham Winery, professes intrigue and respect for the potential of fruit wines. He calls Bartlett Estate\u2019s Blueberry Dry Oak Aged wine a \u201cFirst Growth\u201d of the category and argues it tastes like Chianti.\r\n\u201cWe convert them every day. We see people from around the world in our tasting room\u2026many of them serious wine drinkers. If we can get them to the tasting bar, we almost always make a convert out to them.\u201d \u2014Bob Manley, co-founder, Hermit Woods Winery\r\nDeVito has even gone so far as to serve it secretly to his \u201cItalophile\u201d brother-in-law.\r\n\r\n\u201cI placed bottles of Tignanello on the table and when no one was looking, filled their glasses with this fabulous [blueberry] red wine,\u201d he says. \u201cEveryone cheered.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo Manley and DeVito, when vintners take fruit wines seriously, they can be as interesting as grape wine. However, \u201cthe tastes of people who enjoy sweet fruit wines are as valid as those who enjoy other types of wines,\u201d\u00a0says Keith Bishop, of Bishop\u2019s Orchards Farm Market & Winery in Guilford, Connecticut. \u201cWine is a beverage and can be enjoyed in all its forms as part of an interesting and varied diet and lifestyle.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nSpecialty Regions\r\nUnlike the strong tradition of apple wine in Denmark, or plum wine in Japan, few American regions produce one particular type of fruit wine. However, a few areas boast enough specialization to warrant recognition.\r\nMichigan: Cherries\r\nTraverse City, Michigan, reigns as America\u2019s tart cherry-farming capital and has a long history of wines made from it. More than a dozen producers make some version of deeply hued cherry wine in dry, semi-dry and sweet styles.\r\n\u201cWe wish more people realized fruit wines can be just as serious and delicious as wines made from grapes.\u201d \u2014Megan Molloy, marketing coordinator, Chateau Grande Traverse\r\nChateau Grande Traverse started to produce fruit wines in the late 1970s and now distributes as far as China. \u201cWe wish more people realized fruit wines can be just as serious and delicious as wines made from grapes,\u201d says Megan Molloy, the winery\u2019s marketing coordinator. \u201cFruit wines take just as much attention and time\u2026to create a successful final product.\u201d Chateau Grande Traverse\u2019s lineup includes six cherry products, from 100% cherry wine to a rich, fruity fortified bottling crafted in the style of a reserve Port.\r\n\r\n\r\nHawaii: Pineapples\r\nIf there\u2019s one fruit indelibly synonymous with Hawaii, it\u2019s the pineapple.\r\n\r\nMauiWine started to make pineapple wine in 1974 on a lark. To test a traditional-method sparkling wine program, they first practiced on local fruit. The surprise success of the wine turned into a core focus of their business.\r\n\u201cWine is a representation of agriculture and place, simple as that. For a winery on Maui, what better way could we represent these things than to utilize a famed part of our culture and agriculture heritage as the pineapple.\u201d \u2014Joe Hegele, marketing and branding director, MauiWine\r\nToday, the winery makes three pineapple wines. Its traditional-method brut sparkling bottling has particularly earned serious praise from wine lovers and bartenders.\r\n\r\n\u201cWine is a representation of agriculture and place, simple as that,\u201d says Joe Hegele, MauiWine\u2019s marketing and branding director. \u201cFor a winery on Maui, what better way could we represent these things than to utilize a famed part of our culture and agriculture heritage as the pineapple.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\nMaine: Blueberries \r\nWild blueberries carpet the landscape in swaths of Maine. Several producers have capitalized on the bounty to craft beautiful wines made from this tart fruit.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis native, 10,000-year-old wild fruit is the original blueberry,\u201d says Terrien of Bluet. He believes the fruit has a natural affinity for fermentation. \u201c[The wild blueberry] is very good for making wine due to its natural acidity and balance, especially wines that suit the changing 21st-century palate that favors the natural, authentic, low alcohol, local and healthy.\u201d\r\n\r\nBluet\u2019s bottle-fermented wine features a cork and Champagne-like packaging, while remaining true to its provenance at 7% abv.\r\n\r\n\r\nOther Notable Producers\r\nAt Bishop\u2019s Orchards, Keith Bishop has experimented with the diverse fruits grown on his family\u2019s nearly 150-year-old farm. However, his wildly popular apple wines often fool visitors into believing they\u2019re sipping a traditional white wine.\r\n\r\nNew Hampshire\u2019s Hermit Woods has racked up accolades for its fruit wines that \u201cdrink like classic wines from notable regions of the world,\u201d says Manley. \u201cWe studied classic winemaking techniques; we barrel-age many wines for a year or more. Many of our wines are well suited to lay down in your cellar for ten or more years.\u201d He and his cofounders, Ken Hardcastle and Chuck Lawrence, use local, organic whole fruits blended to create drier, complex wines.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nDeVito likens Hermit Woods\u2019s Petite Blue, made from wild Maine lowbush blueberries, to Syrah.\r\n\r\nIn Tenino, Washington, Deana Ferris of Mill Lane Winery makes 22 different fruit wines. She sources local and fresh produce with ripeness levels that require little additional sweetening. She and her husband, Dan, first earned recognition at a local wine festival for their blackberry wine.\r\n\r\nBecause of their success, the local industry has enjoyed a related boom. \u201cNow almost all wineries produce some version of fruit wine to pour at events,\u201d says Ferris.