Pennsylvania Wine School: What is Cayuga?

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: Cayuga (pronounced kuy-YOO-guh)

Grown: Across Pennsylvania

Similar to: Riesling

Hardy and capable of producing intriguing, accessible wines, this white grape is a cross between two hybrids — Schuyler and Seyval Blanc.

When picked early, Cayuga can be made into lovely, aromatic sparkling wines that boast good acid and balance. Because the grapes have thick skins, they can also stay on the vine and be used for late-harvest dessert wines. But the most popular use for the grape is in dry and off-dry wines that recall Riesling or Viognier.

These white wines are crisp and bright, with powerful flavors of lemon, apple, peach, grapefruit, and lemon. When picked later in the fall, Cayuga wines are sweeter, fuller-bodied, and begin to manifest notes of ripe pineapple, honey, and hints of foxiness (similar varietals such as Delaware and Niagara).

Because it is relatively easy to grow and has so many appealing qualities, Cayuga is often used as a component in blends, where it can invigorate middling whites.

Cayuga is typically ready to drink after only six to nine months of aging. The window is short! Drink these wines within a year of bottling to maximize the clean, steely zip.

Cayuga is such a breezy, versatile wine that it’s easy to pair. Serve the bright white with your summer clambake menu: lobster rolls, steamers, and deviled eggs. Seafood is always a strong option with a dry, high-acid white. Meanwhile, dishes that play with sweet and salty — glazed ham or a baked chicken with olives and prunes — will accentuate the wine’s clean flavors and fruit pop. This means that sparkling Cayuga is a dream companion for a cheese plate with fruit chutney.

To learn more about other varietals grown across PA Wine Land, visit our Wine School library.

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