Variety (varietals?) is the spice of life. This year, make it your mission to explore new wine grapes, sample the hard-to-pronounce, do away with your preconceived notions, and break free from the big names. From austere and tannic to fruity and zippy, these Pennsylvania varietals all have something enticing to offer.
*listed from dry to sweet
Albariño is an approachable wine that drinks bright, fresh, and dry. Like other cold-weather European whites, this Spanish varietal is famous for its distinctive aroma — think apricot and peach.
2. Seyval Blanc
Seyval Blanc tends to exhibit high acidity and minerality, with notes of citrus, green apple, hay, and melon. Winemakers have a lot of room for creativity with this grape, as it can be made into sparkling wine, aged in oak, and included in blends (often with Chardonnay).
3. Grüner Veltliner
This aromatic white wine is dry, bright, and peppery. Inviting and vibrant, Grüner pairs well with almost any meal, making it a favorite of restaurant sommeliers hoping to please a table full of diners.
Wines made with Traminette exude spicy and floral aromas, alongside flavors of lychee, apricot, and honey. The varietal can be made in off-dry and dry styles — the latter often exhibit notes of apple and citrus.
Wines made from this grape are often on the sweeter side with a gentle fizz of fine bubbles retained from the fermentation process. The varietal’s signature aroma is lychee and other notes include summer melon, mango, grapefruit, ginger, honey, and spice.
These white wines are crisp and bright, with powerful flavors of lemon, apple, peach, grapefruit, and lemon. When allowed to ripen later into the fall, Cayuga wines are sweeter, fuller-bodied, and begin to manifest notes of ripe pineapple, honey, and hints of foxiness.
Wines made from this hybrid grape boast notes of pineapple, peach, tea, and orange blossom. Vignoles that are made in sweeter styles — such as ice wine — showcase more honey character.
8. Vidal Blanc
Vidal Blanc boasts tropical fruit notes and can be produced in dry, semi-dry, dessert, and ice wine styles. It is grown across the state and varies by region. Wines produced in the NorthWest region are bright and crisp while those from the SouthCentral region are more floral in flavor.
*listed from off-dry to sweet
Steuben is spicy and sweet, with hints of honey — thus its nickname “ambrosia.” The grape is most commonly employed in sweet and off-dry wines, which accentuates its light, fruity quality.
Catawba has mild berry and fresh fruit notes, with subtle sweetness and a bright, smooth finish. Keep an eye out for a sparkling version bursting with floral aromas.
This native grape is beloved for its delicate sweetness with hints of green apple and spice. Pale pink in color, sparkling Delaware is a particular treat.
*listed from dry to off-dry
12. Cabernet Franc
This earthy, peppery favorite boasts a stunning aroma — cherry, dark fruit, herbs, spice, and violets. Cab Franc is usually aged for at least six months in oak which accentuates the tannins and adds even more spice.
This dry, tannic red wine showcases herbaceous aromas of lemongrass, sassafras, and mint, and finishes strong with flavors of dark fruit and chocolate.
A Northern Italian grape, Teroldego boasts notes of bright, spicy, red fruit and hints of cinnamon and anise. Look out for subtle flavors of smoke, earth, pine, and almond along with snappy acidity.
Hailing from Georgia (that’s the country, not the state), this versatile red features dark berry aromas and a spicy finish. With moderate acidity and relatively mild alcohol, it’s a great wine to pair with bold, hearty meals.
If you’re looking for huge tannins, look elsewhere. But if you seek cherry, red fruit, and herbaceous notes, you’ve come to the right place. To counteract its high acidity, Chambourcin is often aged in oak barrels, imbuing the wine with aromas of earth, tobacco, and vanilla.
Dry wines made from this grape boast a rich red color, with prominent black pepper notes on the nose, and flavors of chokecherries, black raspberries, blueberries, and poached plums. The wine ages quite nicely, developing richness after some time on oak.
Wines made from Lemberger tend to fall into two broad categories: strong, full-bodied styles reminiscent of California Zinfandel, or lighter, softer wines that recall Pinot Noir. Despite that divergence, the wines share a dark blue-red color, aromas of ripe cherries, blackberries and chocolate, notable spice, medium tannins, and high acidity.
19. Marechal Foch
This hybrid grape is famous for its deep red color. Expect aromas of blackberry jam, and flavors of smoke, vanilla, and spice resulting from oak-aging.
20. Baco Noir
When sampling this red wine, notice robust flavors of cedar, tobacco, leather, blackberries, sour cherry, and prunes. Savor a sip to detect herbal notes of oak, black pepper, mint, and licorice.
This hybrid grape has an appealing sweetness balanced by velvety flavors of blueberry and dried fruit. Barrel-aging helps add complexity and depth to these wines.
For more on locally-grown varieties, check out our Pennsylvania Wine School.