Pennsylvania Wine School: Delaware

Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential grape varieties? The PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know.

Varietal: Delaware (pronounced deh-luh-wehr)

Grown: Across Pennsylvania

Similar to: Concord

Delaware is usually categorized as a native grape thanks to the subtle foxiness it shares with Concord and Niagara, but the story is a bit more complicated.

First off, Delaware is not named after the state. The grape first came to prominence in the 1850s in Delaware, Ohio, but it was actually Swiss Aristocrat Paul Henri Mallet-Prevost who originally bred the vines in Frenchtown, New Jersey. A 2015 genetic analysis confirmed that Delaware is a cross between two wild North American strains (Vitis aestivalis, also known as the summer or pigeon grape, and Vitis labrusca, the most noteworthy native line) and Vitis vinifera, the species of European varietals.

That mixed heritage is a boon, as wines made from Delaware have the bright, fruity, grape-y charm of native grapes, but with the dial turned down on some of the muskier notes often associated with labrusca varieties.

Delaware is cold-hardy and thrives in the Northeastern climate. This marvelously versatile grape can be made in styles from dry to sweet to sparkling to ice wine, but you are most likely to see it as a sweet or semi-sweet table wine. While Delaware is technically a red grape with a dark pink hue, it usually produces white and blush wines. That is because it is a “slip-skin” variety — the skin is easily removed and doesn’t impart much color to the resulting wines.

Delaware wines showcase flavors of candied apples, strawberries, honey, and grapefruit. The signature aroma is deeply grape-y and slightly floral. (Speaking of aroma, Delaware is prized as a table grape in South Korea and Japan specifically for its fragrance.) The wines typically have medium body and high acidity, which helps balance any sweetness. Overall, it is a great option for lovers of Concord who are looking for something different.

Pair your bottle of Delaware with salty, intense dishes such as cured meats, cod fritters or nachos. The sweetness and brightness of the wine will provide the perfect contrast. You could also whip up a recipe that uses sweetness as a flavor booster and let the wine further accentuate that note. We suggest oven-baked wings with honey glaze or stewed duck with plums.