Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential wine words? The PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know
Varietal: Vidal Blanc (pronounced vee-DAHL BLANK).
Grown: Across Pennsylvania, but particularly in the NorthWest, SouthWest and SouthCentral regions.
Similar to: Riesling
Vidal Blanc is like the perfect little black dress — it can be dressed up, dressed down, and transformed to fit any occasion. This versatile grape can be made into steely, bone-dry wines, rich barrel-aged whites, or world-beating ice wines bursting with intense, complex flavors.
Often shortened to Vidal, this white hybrid is the result of crossing the Vitis vinifera grape Ugni blanc (also known as Trebbiano Toscano) and another hybrid varietal, Rayon d’Or. It was developed in the 1930s by Frenchman Jean Louis Vidal, who was hoping to use the grape in cognac production. But his creation ended up with some unexpected super powers: Its tough skin and ability to thrive in cold climates led to tremendous popularity in both Canadian wine regions and the American Northeast.
The grape can be used to produce both dry and sweet wines, so there’s probably a Vidal Blanc out there for any white drinker. Due to the grape’s versatility — it can be aged in wood, left on the vine for a late harvest, or blended with other whites — it is hard to pin down the signature tasting notes. Be on the look out for bright, pure fruit flavors, and aromas of grapefruit, pineapple, and pear. When aged in wood, notes of orange rind, vanilla, and almond join the party. The varietal has high acid levels, so sometimes winemakers leave a fair amount of residual sugar to balance the flavors.
One of the Vidal Blanc’s most popular uses is in ice wine. These sweet dessert wines are very special — and often more expensive — because grapes remain on the vine until late November or sometimes early January. This causes the juices to ripen and concentrate, leading to lower yields and fantastic flavors, including candied currant, honey, hazelnuts, citrus, lychee, and honeysuckle.
Looking to pair your favorite Vidal vintage? The grape’s fruitiness is a perfect counterpoint to the briny pop of scallops, crab, or tuna, or as a complement to a refreshing fruit platter. Off-dry Vidals cut the heat of spicy dishes — think Thai curry, Mexican mole, or jambalaya. Pair your ice wine with salty cheese or your favorite dessert.
Below is a sampling of PA Vidal Blanc for you to try from all across PA Wine Land. Check your local wineries for more Vidal Blanc wine.
To learn more about other varietals grown across PA Wine Land, visit our Wine School library.