Need some help comprehending the plethora of exciting Pennsylvania grape varietals? We’re at your service, offering up some information on some of the wine words you need to know.
Varietal: Niagara (pronounced nay-AE-gruh, just like the falls).
Grown: Across Pennsylvania, but particularly in the northwest region.
Similar to: Actually, this varietal has a unique flavor profile unto its own – a fresh white grape taste and lightly sweet finish.
Niagara is a “native grape” (as opposed to a hybrid variety or European import). Created in Niagara County, N.Y. in 1868, the strain was born when C.L. Hoag and B.W. Clark cross-bred Concord grapes with white Cassady grapes. It was first sold commercially in 1882 and has since become the leading grape grown in the United States.
Niagara grapes do not transport well, which means they are usually found close to where they are grown (it’s another reason why most Americans typically encounter Niagara grapes in white grape juice). In northwest Pennsylvania, a 20-mile long, five-mile-wide band of native grapes — including Niagara — thrives along the Lake Erie shoreline. The vines love the cool, dry climate. While some of that fruit ends up in the aforementioned juice, a bunch of it becomes wine.
Those white grape juice flavors carry through to the wine. You can expect aromas of candied lemon and floral jasmine. A medium-bodied white, the tasting notes evoke fresh grapes and tropical fruit, with a moderately acidic finish. The varietal can be made in both a sweet and off-dry style. It has a pure, fruity, long finish.
Pair your favorite Niagara vintage with dishes that blend the sweet and savory — think buttery pastries, tender soufflés or cheesecake. It’s also a lovely mate for briny shellfish, fresh fruit, and interesting cheeses.
Below is a sampling of PA Niagara wines for you to try from all across PA Wine Land: