New York’s Seneca Lake AVA Is Making A Case For Heritage Grapes

Vinifera was first brought to the United States in the 1600s. It was planted off the coast of South Carolina, but it was not successful. The vines were left behind and they wandered, as vines do, cross-pollinating with other vines. Around 1830, the Reverend William W. Bostwick first brought these spontaneous hybrid vines to the Finger Lakes where he planted them in the garden of his rectory. The indigenous vines were Catawba and Isabella. In 1882 the Geneva Experiment Station was established, focusing on creating new hybrids that could withstand winter freeze. Then, as Prohibition came to an end, Frenchman Charles Fournier was invited to the Finger Lakes to help the wine revival of the region. He planted French American hybrids, as well as American heritage grapes, to understand the growing conditions in the Finger Lakes.

New York's Seneca Lake AVA Is Making A Case For Heritage Grapes

Five popular heritage grapes are Cayuga White, Traminette, Vignoles, DeChaunac, and Vidal. I wrote about these grapes and the benefits of heritage grapes in the July/August 2023 Issue of Somm Journal.

These heritage grapes allowed growers to produce quality wines in regions that were previously considered too cold and challenging for traditional varieties. They offer high levels of natural acidity and can be used in sparkling and dessert wines, as well as still wines. And given their reliability in the face of changing climatic conditions—including floods, frosts, heat waves, hailstorms, and fires—perhaps even regions exclusively employing Vitis vinifera should take a deeper look at hybrid varieties.

Read more about these heritage grapes in the July/August 2023 issue of Somm Journal.