Sweet Tea on Table Cloth

If the surge in spiked seltzer interest over the past few months has taught us anything, it’s that people sure do enjoy the winning combination of “existing drink people like + alcohol”. Though we’ve yet to see if spiked seltzer can maintain its current shortage-inducing levels of demand through the long, cold nights of winter, one interesting, unexpected combination of wine and a standard-bearing Southern beverage might just merit a closer look.

That’s because, some way, somehow, sweet tea wine exists. The brainchild of Traveler’s Cellar Winery in Bowling Green, Kentucky, this concoction is a combination of naturally fermented lemon-raisin wine alongside what a press release describes as “home-brewed Kentucky sweet tea, with leaves sourced from Sri Lanka.” A product listing for the 2019 vintage wine describes it as a “raisin-lemon wine with artificial color”, yielding an ABV of 9.8 percent and a pH of 3.1.

Watch: How to Make a Sweet Tea and Vodka Slushee

As unexpected as it seems, Traveler’s Cellar’s offering has its origins in history. “Unbeknownst to us, many years ago, Sweet Tea Wine was a real thing in the South,” owner Derrick Huff says. “After coming across a few recipes, I drafted what would eventually become our roadmap to producing our Sweet Tea Wine.”

For the clueless Yankees out there, sweet tea is essentially just your standard (iced) black tea served with a healthy heaping of sugar or simple syrup, often flavored with a lemon wedge. Natural wine is made with “as little human intervention as possible,” but the definition of exactly what makes a wine natural differs from vineyard to vineyard. In general, it means that no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used. Frequently, preservatives like sulfur (which, yes, are part of conventional winemaking) are also absent.

So what’s it like to add fresh-brewed tea to a raisin-lemon wine? Huff notes that “the tea provides color, flavor and that familiar aroma we all love about tea. It has a surprisingly familiar tea flavor and very mild tea aftertaste.” He recommends it be served over ice cubes just as one would a regular sweet tea, which adds to the experience.

So if you’re a Southerner looking for a way to get on board with the natural wine craze that all of your snobby friends are talking about, a $13 bottle of sweet tea wine could be a good jumping-off point.  

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