Producer: ‘Ulupalakua Vineyards and Maui Wine
Region: ‘Ulupalakua AVA, Maui, Hawaii
Tasting Notes: Pineapple, cream, tropical citrus
Pairings: Spicy Asian Cuisine, Mimosas, New Years Eve
Price (approximately): $20
Special New Years Edition! Want to try something a bit different this New Year's Eve? Yes, toasting with Champagne is the gold standard, as it should be, and Cava is the bubbly bargain man's best friend. The tropical shores of Maui, however, present an intriguing sparkling intoxicant that should not be overlooked. Want the best? Go with Champagne this New Year, and the $50 plus price to tag to match. Want to try something a bit more unique with a fun story? Read on...
‘Ulupalakua Vineyards and Maui Wine, the only large commercial winemaker in Hawaii, was established in 1974 on the high slopes of the dormant volcano Haleakalā on the island of Maui. The vinous mastermind, Emil Tedeschi, procured equipment for the new winery that would be necessary in the winemaking process and decided to conduct a few tests to ensure that it functioned properly. Unfortunately, Hawaii had no indigenous vines, which can take years to mature. With grapes still maturing on the vine, Tedeschi turned his sights to a fruit with abundant supply on Maui: pineapple. Although pineapple wine was only intended as a testing method for the equipment, it soon became a favorite amongst tourists for its sweet characteristics and authentically-Hawaiian appeal. The King of Fruit was initially utilized for two wines: a crisp white wine called Maui Blanc and a pineapple sparkling wine. Although the Maui Blanc went on to become the winery's best selling wine, the sparkling line was quickly phased out due to difficulties in production.
The bubbles made a reappearance in 1994, initially as a friendly challenge in conjunction with the twentieth anniversary of the winery. One hundred cases were produced for the occasion, which sold out almost instantly. The winery couldn’t ignore the popularity and demand. The sparkling machine was reignited; pineapple bubbly was on the menu again. Along with Maui Blanc, the sparkling wine, named Hula o Maui, is one of the vineyard’s best sellers, and is a unique representation of Maui’s geographical location and agricultural history.
Hula o Maui is produced in the traditional methode champenois, famously and meticulously developed by the seventeenth-century Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, in Champagne, France. The wine undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle, and is then aged on the lees for 6 to 8 months to develop a creamy texture without sacrificing the bright, fresh tropical fruit characteristics.
The wine’s first impression is unsurprising, with strong pineapple and tropical aromatics. The palate is brut (semi-dry) with pleasant effervescence, balanced acidity and strong flavors of pineapple with subtle accents of tropical citrus. Not a complex wine like its sparkling counterparts in Champagne, but an enjoyable and unique wine that is accompanied by a great narrative to recount at your New Year's Eve party.
Is it Champagne or even Cava? Of course not. Pineapple is vastly inferior to the grape in terms of biochemical complexity, phenolic variation and diversity of flavor profiles. But that doesn't mean that Hula o Maui cannot be an enjoyable bubbly for a festive occasion.
As a bonus, its brut dryness, refreshing effervescence and tropical fruit characteristics make it a brilliant food pairing partner, particularly with spicy Asian cuisine (Thai food!), and as a companion for mimosas and other sparkling cocktails.
Cheers and Happy New Year!