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The only way to appreciate wine is to taste wine, different wines, and push yourself to try new things.

There’s no better way to taste more wines than the exploding popularity of wine festivals. There are many events in Indiana and surrounding states, many in Indianapolis, but two large ones which dominate the calendar. Story, Indiana hosts the Indiana Wine Fair April 26. Then Indianapolis hosts Vintage Indiana June 7.

Grape Sense LogoThe Indiana Wine Fair has grown to be wildly successful approaching its 12th year in quirky little Story, Indiana. The town is best known for its old inn – “One inconvenient location since 1851” and a world-class restaurant.

The wine fair runs 12:30-7 p.m. April 26th. Admission is $30 with a Story Inn wine glass keepsake for the first 4,000 at the gate. Designated Drivers are admitted for $10. The fair offers shuttle buses from picturesque Nashville and Bloomington.

The wine fair offers plenty of food options and entertainment. Story is approximately half way between Columbus and Bloomington about 10 miles south of Hwy. 46.

StoryCrowdVintage Indiana is the oldest of these mega-wine gatherings in its 14th year. Vintage is sponsored by the Indiana Wine and Grape Council. The noon-6 p.m. event is held in Indianapolis’ Military Park downtown. Admission is $25 in advance and $35 at the gate. The first 10,000 people receive a souvenir glass. A VIP program costs $50 in advance and gets you an hour of less-hectic tasting at 11 a.m.

Vintage includes entertainment, craft and food vendors along with a Wine & Food pavilion featuring presentations from chefs and foodies.

Both wine festivals present a wide range of wines from many of Indiana’s 80-some wineries. You can easily taste more than 100 wines at either event. Though a little advice for big wine events is learn to spit. Some people are uncomfortable sloshing wine around in their mouth then expelling it into a dump container at each winery’s booth. The trick is to learn to move the wine around from the front of your mouth (or palate) to the back. If you’re a little uncomfortable remember this is a world-wide practice commonly seen in Europe and even Napa Valley tasting rooms. You can practice it at home.

There are other wine festivals. Vevay, along the Ohio river, hosts the Swiss Wine Festival August 21.24. Vevay claims to be the location of Indiana’s first winery. At this time they have 12 wineries committed to pouring for the event.

Then there are other festivals and art shows which may feature a winery or two.

StoryCrowdBut the two big ones come up early in the year. Each features a lot of wineries. It’s not unusual to find 20-35 wineries at either event. Parking can be an issue at Story, a large abandoned field is used across from the Story Inn. Parking in Indianapolis is where it can be found but plentiful on the city’s near west side.

Both festivals are great fun. But a word of warning, Story’s Indiana Wine Fair is crowded into a small space. There are Hoosier winemakers who will whisper, off the record, the festival has grown beyond the space.

Vintage draws an even bigger crowd but the venue is much more spacious. Both venues feature long lines and crowds. Obviously, people are consuming alcohol at these events. There are always a few who have bellied up to the tasting table a few times too many. The wineries are very careful with the one-ounce pour but there is no policing how many pours anyone consumes.

With that word of advice, the wine fairs are a great way to explore Indiana’s improving wine industry.