Buying American wine is like buying wine from any other country in the world. First you have to understand what you are buying, this then factors into where it is grown, and what process is used by the vinter in the creation of the wine. Every state has vineyards, from Maine to Washington, Florida to Napa Valley, California. Since wine is wine, no matter where in the world it comes from (and we’ll get into regional differences later), you first have to understand what type of wine you are looking for.
White wines, though they can be sweet, tend to be more dry, and are harvested from white grapes, with no skin to pulp contact during the fermentation, some white wines can be made from black (or red) grapes, with the skin completely removed before the pulp is set to fermentation. Red Wines, are usually sweeter with a slight pucker factor because of the tannins in the grape skin that transfer into the wine during the fermentation process. Red wines are created by leaving the skins with the pulp for fermentation. Blush wines, are pinkish in color and can be made several ways, from limited contact with the skins of the black(red) grape during fermentation leaving it with a pinkish hue, to blending white and red wines, these wines range from sweet to dry, and have a limited pucker.
Then you have Fortified and Dessert wines, dessert wines are very sweet, and their are multiple ways to keep a high sugar content in the grapes as they ferment making a sweet wine. Fortified wines have a spirit, such as brandy added to them, during the fermentation process which stops the fermentation, Sherry is an example of a fortified wine. Their are also Sparkling wines, carbon dioxide is a natural by product of the fermentation process and different vinters have their own ways of sealing it into the wine.
So now you know your wines, if you were not a wine drinker before, you at least have the basics now, and if you were a serious drinker of quality vintages, well now onto the American wine. First you have to look at the region from which you are purchasing wines, warmer weather is usually better for sweet red wines, and cooler weather better for dry white wines. This is a generalization, not a rule, many other factors go into how a wine tastes, from style of fermentation, types of grapes grown all the way down to the quality and make up of the soil. The best place to start as always is local, when you stop by your local wine and spirits store, or the liquor store or supermarket, look for something made in the state, or you can always turn to handy websites such as http://www.allamericanwineries.com/AAWMain/locate.htm. This will give you and indication as to how many vinters sell wine in your state, as listed by various regions, and then to individual phone numbers and websites. So start local, their is a plethora of resources at your disposal to begin discovering wine in America.
So you don’t want to search the web for hours and you have no inclination to drive out to some little known vinter and try his home made dandelion wine. You want a casual, quick and easy reference to understanding American Wines. Well your not going to get one online, wines while they exhibit similar characteristics are as personal as perfumes, a wine that may be loved by some will be hated by many, how the bouquet rolls of the tongue, or how it compliments a new dish you intend to serve are something only you can judge. So this means field work! To the local wine and spirit stores, talk to your local liquor store clerk and find out when they do regional wine tasting, or to your nearest winery and ask for a sampling, or see when they hold their tasting. Then you can determine for yourself what local wines are to your taste.