How Oliver and Duplin Buck Tradition With Sweet Creations

Not every wine consumer is enamored with Cabernet, Pinot or Chardonnay, and that’s why some winemakers hang their hats on appealing to non-traditional wine aficionados.

There are plenty of wines for the non-traditional wine drinker at Oliver Winery, which hangs its hat on its sweet red (formerly known as its “soft” red). 

The wine is a concord grape wine that is intentionally one dimensional, with a taste that is purely grape. Although Oliver produces plenty of dry reds and dry whites, it was its soft red that was the catalyst to its evolution, said Director of Winemaking Dennis Dunham.

“It serves as the role model for the other wines that came in later,” he explained in an interview with Vintner Magazine earlier this year. “We can surprise people with how good this wine can be.”

READ MORE: Oliver Winery Grows Diverse Catalog By Letting Grapes Do The Talking

That kind of mindset led Oliver to produce unique varieties like its famous Apple Pie and Peach Pie wines, and a line of Moscatos.

Attention to detail is key, as is being willing to experiment with unusual fruit.

“Someone sent me a sample of cherry juice, and I didnt know I liked cherry juice, but it was one of the most spectacular flavors I ever tasted,” Dunham said. “We started looking at what we could do with it. We were not necessarily looking at a Moscato, but we were looking at where a cherry component could fit.”

Duplin Winery in North Carolina is known for sweet wines and a family atmosphere. Sticking to what it does best has allowed it to expand to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Panama City Beach, Florida, where it is building a new facility.

Being willing to take a chance got it all started. The founders originally set out to grow Muscadine grapes in New York in the 1970s, but the grape market crashed and they were left with a big crop they couldn’t sell. So, they decided to make sweet wine.

Today, the wines are paired with food in a family-friendly atmosphere, Duplin General Manager Morgan Jackson said.

“Muscadines produce a delicious fruity wine (that) is meant to be enjoyed chilled,” he said. “We share our wines with our guests by inviting them to an entertaining and informative wine tasting. During the tasting, guests enjoy our homemade crackers (the recipe was developed at its restaurant in Rose Hill), our gourmet cheese dip and various samples of our Duplin wines.”

READ MORE: Why Duplin GM Morgan Jackson embraces expansion

In Indiana, Dunham said making small batches in small bottles sold only in Oliver’s tasting room allowed them to gage their potential success with their Moscato.

“We established our pilot series, which lets us test things,” he said. “They were 100% sold in our tasting room, but that allowed us to take a risk without investing a ton.

“Customers loved it, so we scaled it up to 750 mL, started wholesaling it, and it’s highly popular.”

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