The cold weather that strikes the northern parts of New York is good for only a few things: snow, ice skating, and hybrid grapes. Now, not all grapes thrive in these wicked temperatures but luckily for us, scientists are awesome and have actually created new grape varietals that are intended specifically for these regions. These are called hybrids, and they’re combinations of different grapevines bred together to defend against different elements.
Part of the discovery of the hybridizations was born out of a need to resist phylloxera, the disease that can spread like wildfire among a vineyard and destroy grapevines very quickly. Scientists took the resistant characteristics from American grapevines and bred them with Old World Vitis vinifera (or common grape) vines to create a hybrid that wasn’t as susceptible to disease. In doing that, they ended up with a much heartier and tough grapevine that can withstand the temperatures of an Upstate New York winter, which we all know are not for the faint of heart.
One of the stars of the hybrid wine family is the Seyval Blanc, a white grape that is grown in England but has made its claim in the Finger Lakes, and more recently in the Hudson Valley, right here in NY. It was created around the 1920s by a father and son-in-law team in France who crossed the Seibel 5656 and the Rayon d’Or grapes, both of which had been results of efforts to create disease-resistant varieties.
Seyval is a crisp white, similar in palate to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc but a cold-weather variety. It ripens early and does well when introduced to oak fermentation and presents lovely citrus notes. You can pair this New York treasure with all of the tasty things like spring and summer vegetables, sharp cheeses, fish and poultry, and basically any fruit.
There are Seyvals being grown in other places around the U.S. like Virginia and Ohio but we think the best is from New York.
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