The “sibling beverages” to grape wines are fruit wines, mead, cider and fruit brandies, all of which are exploding in growth and popularity. I’ve felt it’s unfair for these special “locavore” fruit-based beverages to be judged against table wine made from grapes, as they are stylistically different and are seen by many wine judges as inferior to grape wine.Accordingly, a year ago  I launched a competition just for these beverages, the Drink Outside the Grape Competition, which drew entries from across the U.S. and Canada and whose winners poured their entries for an industry audience at the Eastern Winery Exposition, and for wine afficionados at the annual American Wine Society conference.

This year, judges will include Dominic Rivard, author of The Fruit Winemaker’s Ultimate Guide, coming from Nova Scotia, and Tiina Kuuler, a sommelier and also an author on fruit wine production, from Estonia. Already, fruit wines, mead, cider and eaux-de-vie entries range from Washington State to Texas, Virginia, Alberta, Ontario and India! And that’s just for starters.

Fruit wines, mead, cider and fruit brandies are only judged within their category, with Best of Category medals in addition to gold, silver and bronzes.

The entry deadline for 2017 is Tues. August 1st, and you can read the 2016 list of winners, or enter online, at