The Noble Grapes (the six classic varietals that began the wine obsession back in the day) are obviously an essential part of viticulture and will always hold an important place in the past and future of winemaking. That said, this is 2019, and innovation is the name of the game. This can be in regards to the production process, the fermentation methods, or even the grape growing.
New York’s wine industry has been embodying that innovation for many years now and has recently come to the forefront of the industry as a leader in producing hundreds of varietals in unique and valuable ways. One of these ways is through the process of hybrid grape growing. This is a practice that has been looked down upon by some super strict wine traditionalists because it can be seen as tampering with the grape’s natural tendencies and flavors. Hybrids started as a way to battle the flaws of common vinifera vines like weather and soil sensitivities by cross-breeding them with another grape. For many years, hybrids were used to just assist in mass manufacturing which reduced the complex nature of the wine but recently, there has been an influx of hybrid production to introduce new and horizon-broadening wines.
Throughout the state, you can find wineries producing hybrids. In the Niagara Escarpment, you have Vidal Blanc, a white blend of Trebbiano Toscano and Rayon d’Or, being grown (and then frozen in thirteen-degree weather) at the Leonard Oakes Winery to create a gorgeous ice wine.
Then there is Cayuga which was actually genetically engineered by the folks at Geneva Wine Grape Breeding Program at Cornell in the Finger Lakes region. It’s a very popular white grape, born from the crossing of Seyval Blanc and Schuyler grapes, and is commonly used in blends because of its bright, crisp taste.
Finally, one of the most popular New York hybrids is Baco Noir, a hybrid red also from upstate New York. Keep an eye out for more information on this beauty coming soon to our blog.
If you notice, the pattern among these hybrids is they are grown in our very cold regions- Niagara, Hudson Valley, and the Finger Lakes. This is because many of the classic varietals like Merlot and Pinot Noir couldn’t possibly survive in the harsh cold winters of upstate New York, which is why they are bred with heartier grapes.
The producers behind the wineries that are creating these hybrids are using science and technology to expand and grow the wine industry, which is continuing the journey to put New York on the global wine map. If you have a chance, head up to see them yourself and meet these innovative people, taste their wine, and learn about the future of our favorite beverage.
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