Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential wine words? PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know.
Varietal: Chambourcin (pronounced SHAM-bore-sin).
Grown: Across Pennsylvania, but particularly in the southwest, southcentral, southeast and northcentral regions.
Similar to: Pinot Noir.
Chambourcin is a relatively new grape — it was commercialized in 1963 — but this French-American hybrid has taken off thanks to its vibrant red color and supple mouthfeel. It is a teinturier, meaning it has red-tinged juice (most red grapes produce clear liquid, with the color coming from the skins).
If you’re looking for huge tannins, look elsewhere. But if you seek cherry, red fruit and herbaceous notes, you’ve come to the right place. To counteract its high acidity, Chambourcin is often aged in real oak barrels, imbuing the wine with aromas of earth, tobacco and vanilla. It’s easy to drink and has become increasingly popular with winemakers for its versatility and resilience — it can be made into a dry style or one with moderate residual sugar. Alcohol concentrations are on the high side (13 to 14 percent).
Pair this PA wine with hearty main dishes like seared steak or pasta with red sauce. The acidity and lightness also make a lovely counterpart to soft cheeses such as camembert and brie. Lastly, a classic Chambourcin mate is chocolate, especially with a dryer version of the varietal.
Here’s a sampling of Chambourcins by region. Another wine school tip: “NV” means non-vintage. These wines do not express the conditions of a particular growing year, but aim for a consistent flavor. Blending wines from different years enables the winemaker to ensure that the style remains reliable for buyers.