Established in 1973, the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society (TVOS) holds an annual wine competition for amateur or hobby home wine and mead makers. The Tri-Cities area is always well-represented; in 2016 and 2017 about half of all the wines entered were crafted in the Tri-Cities area, and most of these were made from fresh fruit. East Tennessee is particularly well-suited for grape growing, with several established vineyards in the area. TVOS, an organization dedicated to promoting the art and science of grape growing (viticulture) and winemaking (oenology), boasts many active members in the Tri-cities and the 2015 Annual Conference was held in Kingsport. Amateur winemakers and hobbyists are forging the way for the winemaking and grape-growing industry in Tennessee. Prior to Prohibition, Tennessee was a major producer of grapes and wine. It was not until the 1970s before the state laws were changed, sanctioning commercial wineries, and these laws were championed by amateur winemakers who later went on to open some of Tennessee’s first commercial wineries. TVOS was instrumental in authoring and promoting the viticulture legislation passed in the 1970s. Today the wine industry is quietly growing, and wineries continue opening all across the state, with progress toward acknowledging the state’s winemaking regions as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
TVOS offers educational opportunities for any level of winemaker or wine enthusiast at the Annual Conference, which is coming up on the first weekend of March in Pigeon Forge. Educational sessions include guided wine tastings with seasoned wine judges, fermentation experts teaching about wild yeasts, and local grape growers sharing tips for propagating and caring for the vineyard. Every Annual Conference concludes with a banquet, during which the Award Ceremony takes place. During the Award Ceremony, the winemakers who submitted their wines and meads to the competition receive their medals and other honors, like the Winemaker of the Year Award. Five of the last seven Winemaker of the Year Awards went to a Tri-Cities resident! The Harry & Lora Westcott Scholarship is also awarded during the banquet to a Tennessee college student. While providing educational opportunities and the promotion of the grape and wine industry in Tennessee is the mission of TVOS, the focus is always on fun and friendship between local wine enthusiasts and growers. To find out more about the upcoming conference, or to become involved with TVOS, visit www.tvos.org.
By Keisha Card