After 30 years in production, Wollersheim Winery’s most popular and award winning wine will be celebrated June 30. Guests can come enjoy Prairie Fumé by the glass and listen to music by Gin Mill Hollow at the Prairie du Sac based winery.
For Wollersheim Owner and President Philippe Coquard, the success of the Prairie Fumé is inextricably tied to that of the winery as a whole.
“It was 1988 when the business was struggling a little bit,” Coquard said. “Financially we were not really making ends meet. It was a little difficult. We just didn’t know which direction the business was going to go because of lack of cash flow and lack of operating money.”
During that time, Coquard went to a restaurant and received a bottle of wine from a friend.
“It kind of opened my eyes and made me say ‘This is the kind of wine we need to make to revive the winery,’” Coquard said. “And that’s kind of how it started.”
It was September at the time, well into winemaking season.
“There was no time to waste,” Coquard said.
Coquard went back to the foundation of his knowledge of winemaking. Through consulting his old college textbook, friends and family, Coquard concluded he could produce a white wine with the fresh citrusy crispness he was looking for by using cold fermentation and stopping the fermentation process before it ran its full course.
“If you were to let this wine finish dry, it would be an interesting wine but not as interesting as the Prairie Fumé,” Coquard said. “The beauty of the Prairie Fumé is that little hint of natural sweetness and freshness.”
The Prairie Fumé went on to become by far the most awarded wine for Wollersheim. Most recently, it won two best of class awards in California.
Sometimes the Prairie Fumé has helped Wollersheim win more prestigious awards, such as winery of the year or best white wine.
Coquard said the fruity notes of the wine come as a surprise to those who know it was made in Wisconsin.
“People are blown away,” Coquard said. “(They say) ‘Wow, that’s from Wisconsin, that’s from the midwest?’”
Wollersheim Enologist Céline Coquard Lenerz said the wine’s success may come from its uniqueness, which can appeal to judges.
“It’s a nontraditional varietal of wine, and so that’s always surprising,” Coquard Lenerz said. “It’s not chardonnay, it’s not pinot grigio.”
When it comes to pairings, the Prairie Fumé goes well with seafood, whether it be ceviche, shrimp cocktail or the classic Wisconsin fish fry.
“Any fish related (dish) would be a match,” Coquard said. He particularly likes pairing the wine with grilled shrimp.
The Prairie Fumé can also be used in cooking. Coquard recommends the Prairie Fumé Salmon Tourte, which calls for marinating the fish in the wine.
The Prairie Fumé has been a kind of compound success, Coquard said, with its strong sales and visibility enabling the winery to pursue other projects that go on to win awards of their own such as the Wollersheim Distillery.
The Prairie Fumé will be celebrated at the Wollersheim Winery garden June 30 with drinks and live music. The wine is available for $9.50 per bottle.