Getting to Know Hybrid Varietals

When it comes to wine varietals, hybrids are the new kids on the block. Most have been around for only a couple of decades or even a few years, the result of careful crossing between two or more Vitis species (Vitis is the grape genus; the second word denotes the species. Paging high school biology.)

In the U.S., this often means the spawn of Vitis vinifera, the European grapevine that encompasses famous varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Vitis labrusca, the native species that includes Catawba, Concord, and Niagra, among others. Some of the most popular hybrids, including Traminette, are actually the product of breeding between a vinifera vine and an existing hybrid. These amalgamations have become very popular in Pennsylvania due to their hardiness in tough weather and resistance to disease.

So what does this mean for you, the wine drinker? First, it means there is always something new and exciting to try. Secondly, it means that you can look for hybrid whites, which often exude vibrant citrus notes, and hybrid reds, beloved for their berry aromas. Here’s a guide to some of PA’s favorite cross-bred grapes.

Baco Noir:
A dark skinned variety with berry flavors.

Cayuga:
A neutral (citrusy) white wine variety that can be made into many styles of wine (dry, sweet, sparkling).

Chambourcin:
A dark skinned variety with sour cherry or cherry pie flavor.

Chancellor Dechaunac (more commonly referred to as “Chancellor):
A dark skinned variety, with a neutral red wine flavor.

Marechel Foch (also referred to as “Foch”): 
A dark skinned variety with a relative neutral red wine flavor, sometimes with a smoky or herbaceous nuance.

Noiret:
A dark skinned variety with black pepper aroma.

Seyval Blanc: 
A neutral (citrusy) white wine variety.

Steuben:
A dark skinned variety with strawberry flavors with a hint of fresh grapes.

Traminette:
An aromatic white variety with intense rose flavors.

Vidal Blanc:
This grape, while resilient, appears more affected by regional terroir. For example, in the NorthWest region, Vidal Blanc tends to have bright crispness and pineapple or peach notes, whereas Vidal Blanc grown in SouthCentral Pennsylvania tends to exude more tropical, floral flavors.

Vignoles:
An aromatic white variety with tropical fruit characters.

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