New Jersey is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier wine regions of the Mid-Atlantic. There are over 1500 acres of land in the state operating as vineyards. New Jersey wines now regularly receive critical acclaim and high scores in major wine publications like Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate. In May 2019, the International Wine Review published a profile of the New Jersey wine industry.
Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy are now serving only New Jersey wines at state dinners at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s mansion in Princeton where they annually host the winners of the NJ Wine Competition, including presenting the Governor’s Cups for Best red, white and dessert wine. The NJ Wine Competition is judged annually by the internationally-renowned Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago, an independent, third-party review source for wine, beer, cider and spirits.
Sharrott Winery in Hammonton won the Governor’s Cup for Best Red Wine for the 95 score it received for its 2018 Merlot. The 95 score was the highest in the competition and earned Sharrott Winery the Best in Show honors.
The Governor’s Cup for Best White Vinifera wine was won for the second year in a row by Beneduce Vineyards of Pittstown in Hunterdon County. Their 2019 Tuxedo scored a 93. Last year they won the Governor’s Cup with their 2017 Tuxedo. William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill won the Governor’s Cup for Best Dessert wine with their 2017 Late Harvest Semillon with a 92 score. They also won Best Sparking wine.
What makes New Jersey’s wine industry noteworthy is the diversity of grapes grown here. Due to the different growing conditions in the state, New Jersey will never be known for one varietal but instead, like its population, offers a unique and diverse group of wines for every palate in its different wine regions.
New Jersey vintners specialize in growing and producing wine from the Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrusca or French hybrid grape varietals. Leading white varietals are Albarino, Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, Petit Manseng and Riesling. Leading red varietals include: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Blaufrankish. Major French-American hybrids that flourish in New Jersey include Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles among others.
There are four American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in New Jersey. The four New Jersey AVAs are: Cape May Peninsula, The Central Delaware Valley AVA, which is shared with portions of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Outer Coastal Plain AVA covering 9 southern counties and the Warren Hills AVA. In order for a region to be approved as an AVA, it must be able to prove its identity as a region that is beneficial to grape growing. Some of the criteria used by the Federal government to determine whether an area meets this standard include distinct climate, soil type, elevation and other physical features as well as a history or wine grape growing.
The Outer Coastal Plain covers over 2.25 million acres of mostly flat ground with moderating weather influences from the Atlantic Ocean to the Delaware Bay. Soil conditions are largely well drained sandy loam soil.
The Cape May Peninsula, a sub appellation of the Outer Coastal Plain AVA, is bordered entirely by water and the Pinelands National Reserve. It has the most frost free days in the state and offers the longest growing season for grapes in the state.
Warren Hills covers 182 thousand acres in the western part of the state from the Delaware River to the Kittatinny Mountains. The grape growing season runs about 180 days. The soil here is sandy loam over sedimentary bedrock. Leading grape varieties grown here are largely French-American hybrid but vinifera grapes are grown on south-facing slopes.
NJ wines have taken the top awards at some of the world’s most noted international wine competitions. Our wines consistently score well against California wines in the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Competition, including having taken three best-of-class awards for varietal wines in recent competitions.
Over 800 wines were tasted in October 2018 by the qualified critics at Jamessuckling.com, and New Jersey wineries impressed earning over 20 scores of 90+ Held at Barboursville Winery in Virginia, the tasting offered a comprehensive look at winemaking across the United States. Bottles were sampled from wineries in 14 different states. In an effort to shine light on emerging quality producers across the country, wineries from established the industries of California, Oregon, and Washington were not included.
In 2012 the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) organized a blind taste test between leading New Jersey wines and French wines at Princeton University that was called The Judgement of Princeton. The goal was to recreate the Judgement of Paris, a tasting conducted in France in 1976 where California wineries defeated some of the most famous French wines in a blind taste competition. That event helped put California wines on an international pedestal. In the Judgement of Princeton three New Jersey Chardonnays were among the top four wines against White Burgundy wines from France. French wineries took the Bordeaux category but New Jersey reds were highly competitive. The event received national exposure and was a telling sign of how far New Jersey wines had grown in quality and stature.