What does wine made from indigenous grape varieties taste like? These winemakers want to find out.
On American vineyards, you’re more likely to encounter Vitis vinifera, the common European grape species, rather than indigenous varieties. Part of that has to do with Prohibition, which put many growers off of wine production, industry experts say. However, there’s now a budding generation of winemakers who are experimenting with new hybrid varieties, typically made from a cross between native grapes and vinifera. There are practical reasons for this kind of exploration: Many indigenous varieties can resist disease or withstand extreme weather better than vinifera. Then there’s the exciting element of discovery, too. As one producer put it: “Why wouldn’t we try and use our own grapes and really try to define what American wine can be like?”