Six years ago Grape Sense was born for the love of wine and love of column writing. Today’s column is the anniversary.

It seemed unlikely in October 2008 that the column would reach more than 20 newspapers. Just as unlikely was adding a regional magazine and contributing stories to a national online wine magazine. It seemed crazy to imagine wine travel to Paso Robles and Mendocino, CA., to learn more about wine. That was followed by travel to France not once but three times in 2012 to learn about Languedoc, Bordeaux, and Chablis wines.

Grape Sense LogoSo forgive the personal reflection. But there have been some clear trends learned through six years of wine writing which are helpful to the target audience. Grape Sense No.1 (this is No. 155) started with this: “I hope to offer a little wine education to those who may drink some wine and would like to take a step up without paying the big bucks. I will write about types of wine and specific wines.”

That focus hasn’t varied much through the years though the price point sneaks a bit upwards on occasion. But what has the journey yielded to benefit value wine consumers?

People want to learn more about wine. Statistics galore from varied sources document Americans are drinking more wine. Wine consumers want to know more about the wine basics than ever before.

Not all great U.S. wine has to come from California, Washington, or Oregon. And this remains one of the biggest misconceptions in the wine industry. New York’s Finger Lakes, Virginia, and Northern Michigan deserve a spot on your table.

Indiana has some great wineries as do other Midwestern states. Unfortunately, the wine industry boom has led to winery growth but many enter the business for the wrong reasons. A winery is a small, agriculture business. Running a winery is farming, chemistry, labor, marketing, and sales. Finding success isn’t easy for most new wineries in the Hoosier state or any non-traditional wine producing region.

There are great wineries in Indiana and those spots have been detailed in Grape Sense on many occasions. By the way, there is no better time for a drive to Southern Indiana wineries than the fall.

Many wine drinkers are still afraid to try new things. When visiting a wine shop, instead of the market or local liquor store, pick up a bottle of Argentinian Malbec or Carmenere from Chile. Wine novices should try the great Rhone grapes of France grown there or in California’s central coastal region. Those Rhone grapes are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. Those grapes together and alone make great red wines.

Maybe the most important advice is to have fun with wine. Get a group of friends together and blind taste a Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah and see who can correctly identify each grape. The price point doesn’t matter. Or have a big party and have each couple bring two bottles of wine. One bottle of each is open and tasted blind. At the end of the tasting everyone votes for the best wine of the event and the winner takes home that extra bottle of each wine!

Most of all, thank you. Thank you for reading Grape Sense for six years.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes about value wine every other week for more than 20 Midwestern newspapers. You can reach him at: