Jim Butler of Butler Winery speaks at the Indiana Statehouse about Indiana’s recent federal designation as an American Viticultural Area, which is expected to help the state’s wine industry flourish.
Jim Butler of Butler Winery speaks at the Indiana Statehouse about Indiana’s recent federal designation as an American Viticultural Area, which is expected to help the state’s wine industry flourish.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s wine industry should receive a boost from a recent federal announcement designating the state’s first all-inclusive American Viticultural Area.

The Indiana Uplands AVA encompasses 4,800 square miles of south central Indiana grape-growing terrain and nine wineries of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail.

Though there are more than 200 federally-designated AVAs across the country and anyone can apply for one, the designation is difficult to obtain, signifying a good economic engine for the state’s wine grape industry.

“From a marketing standpoint, this will drive more people to our wineries,” said Jeanette Merritt, marketing director of Indiana Wines and Purdue University’s Wine Grape Team. “This is very positive from an agritourism perspective, and it also encourages people to plant more grapes. Hopefully, we’ll see more vineyards and wineries becoming established in Indiana.”

She added the designation should bolster Indiana’s go-local movement by ensuring that Indiana wines are crafted by local winemakers.

The Indiana Uplands AVA runs in a swath from the Morgan-Monroe county line near Bloomington south to the Ohio River. Its greatest east and west distance is about 65 miles from near Jasper in Dubois County to Knobstone Ridge near Starlight.

Indiana vinophiles hope to showcase the story of how a south-bound glacier shaped the region’s hills, valleys, layered limestone and bedrock to nurture prime grape-growing temperatures and create a unique microcosm of wineries and vineyards that now are a part of Hoosier history.

“There is significantly more rainfall on the highly-erosive soils of Indiana, and it has not been prime agricultural land in the past,” said Jim Butler of Butler Winery, one of the wineries listed on the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail.

At least 85 percent of the grapes used to make a wine must have been grown in an AVA-designated area, and there must be evidence that the geographical location is of distinctive soil, climate, elevation and physical features, he added.

“Wine is a value-added product that goes hand-in-hand with Indiana’s tourism industry, and in the larger picture, this will help our children and our grandchildren,” Butler said.

“The designation clearly signifies to people interested in joining our industry that this is an area where unique opportunities exist for the grape-grower and the winemaker.”

Gina Sheets, the new director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, was very enthusiastic about the federal signage.

“In the late 1800s and 1900s, Indiana was the 10th-largest wine-producing state in the country,” she said. “More than 2 million people come to Indiana each year to taste our wines, generating $80 million in economic impact for the state.”

For winemakers such as Donna Adams, owner of Winzerwald Winery, the announcement means her family’s winery can tout the AVA designation on their wine bottle labels so people will know they grow their own wine.

“This is a huge move in putting Indiana on the map as a major wine grape-growing area,” she said. “Indiana obviously is a place where good wines are being made, and we’re hoping Indiana Uplands becomes a name for a great tourism industry in Indiana.”

She noted the trail will give credence to Winzerwald Winery, which produces German and Swiss Rieslings, Gewurztraminer and ice wines influenced by the German and Swiss families who settled along the river.

Adams added she hopes people visiting the trail will discover the age-old art of winemaking, as well as Lake Monroe, Patoka Lake, West Baden springs and the caves and underground rivers hidden within Indiana’s karst soils.

“There’s been a cave in Corydon for millions of years that they’ve only recently discovered,” she marveled. “We hope people come down here and find their own passageways and adventures in Indiana, just as they’re discovering the Uplands Wine Trail.”

Indiana Uplands wineries include Best Vineyards Winery in Elizabeth; Brown County Winery in Nashville; Butler Winery in Bloomington; Carousel Winery in Bedford; French Lick Winery in West Baden Springs; Huber Winery in Starlight; Oliver Winery in Bloomington; Turtle Run Winery in Corydon; and Winzerwald Winery in Bristow.