Wineries, Purdue wine team report strong Traminette growth

January 31, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Indiana's signature wine variety, Traminette, is catching on.

The Indiana Wine Grape Council and Purdue University started a marketing campaign last year called "Try on Traminette" to draw consumers to Traminette, a white wine known for being floral, fruity and citrusy. The Purdue Wine Grape Team recommended Traminette as the signature varietal wine for the state after years of winegrowing and winemaking experiments across Indiana.

Since then, wineries have been adding it to their offerings, with more than 30 of the state's 54 wineries growing or selling Traminette - up from just 15 two years ago.

"We had a winery tell us that Traminette sales were up 300 percent since last year," Jeanette Merritt, Purdue's wine marketing specialist, said at the 2011 Indiana Hort Congress meeting in January. "We have new wineries opening all the time and they're planting Traminette grapes."

Traminette won 27 medals at last year's Indy International Wine Competition. Of those, 13 were Indiana Traminettes, including French Lick Winery's 2008 vintage, which won white wine of the year, beating out more than 1,000 other wines from 15 countries.

Winery owners said they have to work to keep up with the demand for Traminette since the marketing program began.

"We've added two more vineyards," said Ted Huber, owner of Huber Orchard, Winery & Vineyards in Starlight, Ind. "It used to be people asked about Traminette. Now they ask for it."

Larry Pampel, owner of Whyte Horse Winery in Monticello, is also planting more Traminette vines. He said since Whyte Horse started making and selling Traminette in the last five years, it's become his No. 2-selling wine. And that's been a positive for his bottom line.

"Of the 14 wines in our winery, it probably outsells its next closest competitor by two times," Pampel said. "The marketing campaign has highlighted the awareness of Indiana wines because it's given us a pedestal to stand on for one particular varietal. They've validated a wine in Indiana, which validates other Indiana wines as quality wines."

Christian Butzke, a Purdue associate professor of enology and a former commercial winemaker, said he's expecting most wineries that don't produce Traminette now will do so soon. He's also advising agricultural entrepreneurs wanting to open wineries who are interested in crafting Traminette wines ranging from sparkling wines, sweet and dry, to table wines, ice wines and late-harvest dessert wines.

Butzke said the ongoing "Try on Traminette" campaign and its initial success would help those new Indiana wineries become recognized as agritourism destinations.

"Startups have the advantage of jumping into an existing campaign," Butzke said. "They can hit the ground running as many people enjoy local artisan wines even in a challenging economy."

Writer:  Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Sources:  Jeanette Merritt, 765-496-3842, jkmerrit@purdue.edu

                   Christian Butzke, 765-496-6500, cbutzke@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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