UW Enologist supports state wine business

grapes-4168_1280Nick Smith, Enologist, Outreach Specialist
Department of Food Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Nick Smith, UW-Madision enologist, talks about the wine industry in Wisconsin

3:07 – Total Time

0:18 – What is an enologist
0:39 – History in making wine
0:52 – Wine a growing state business
1:08 – Learning Wisconsin wines
1:49 – Distinct tastes and flavor
2:27 – Wisconsin wine grapes to look for
2:48 – Bright Wisconsin wine future
2:59 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: Putting some human resources behind the wine industry here in Wisconsin. We’re visiting today with Nick Smith, Outreach Specialist, Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Nick you have a job title of enologist, can you tell us what an enologist is?

Nick Smith: Enology in general is the study of wine and wine production. So as an enologist that’s what I do, I study the production and science of wine. For an outreach person, it’s partly research and a lot of that is going out in the field and helping people with the industry and understanding the science of wine.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you give us a little idea of where you come from, a little bit of your background?

Nick Smith: Prior to being here, most recently I was a winemaker in southern Minnesota; prior to that I was a research winemaker at the University of Minnesota for close to eight years.

Sevie Kenyon: What are you finding here in Wisconsin so far?

Nick Smith: I’m finding a pretty large and growing industry. The Wisconsin winery association itself has almost 70 wineries and overall, according to the federal database, there are 110 licensees in the state of Wisconsin.

Sevie Kenyon: Nick, does the Wisconsin consumer need to learn how to drink a new type of wine?

Nick Smith: I don’t think that they have to learn how to drink a new type of wine; it’s just a matter of whether or not they’re ready to approach a new type of wine. It’s a generational element, the younger wine drinker, the millennials, are happy to try all sorts of things. There’s no predetermined sort of notion about what a wine’s supposed to be and they will try a lot of the cold climate wines without an issue. It’s some of the older consumers are kind of locked in on their preferences, so it doesn’t match what their preconceived notion of what a wine’s supposed to be, then they judge it accordingly.

Sevie Kenyon: Will Wisconsin develop its own distinct wine styles and flavors?

Nick Smith: I think there’s a lot of interest in doing that. We have the variety of cold climate grapes available and one of the things that I’m as I travel around is how different the end products of those varietals can be based on where they’re being grown in the state. I was up towards the Appleton area and they had grape varieties they were growing there that tasted way different than the way they would be grown in Minnesota and they were the exact variety. So that kind of cold impact they have there, some of the varieties were turning out quite a bit better than I ever would have anticipated.

Sevie Kenyon: Nick are there some grape varieties that people should be aware of and looking for as they go around tasting wine?

Nick Smith: There’s a long history in southern Wisconsin of Marechal Foch, is a very common variety down here, but Marquette’s a newer variety; Frontenac’s been around awhile, St. Pepin, La Crosse, La Crescent. Some newer varieties that are coming on line are Petite Pearl, there seems to have a lot of interest in that.

Sevie Kenyon: Nick, look in your crystal ball a little bit and tell us what you see the wine business in the state doing.

Nick Smith: I think it’s going to continue to grow. So in five to ten years, I think we’ll have probably 120, 130 wineries out there. And ideally we’ll have a state vision of what wineries are.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Nick Smith, Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison in College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

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