Wine? What kinds of grapes are used for different types of wines? Part 1.


December 27

As part of R “Ask the Ohio Wine and More Blog” series. Amber from The Karcher Group (TKG, R web host) asked the title question for this blog post. What kinds of grapes are used for different types of wines?

Map of Midwest

Map of Midwest

This is a BIG question and I will attempt to answer it from a Mid West American winery perspective. Maize Valley is located in Northeastern Ohio in Marlboro township near the small town of Hartville, Ohio.

There are more or less three different “kinds of grapes” we deal with from a economic standpoint: 1. Native American, 2. French American Hybrid and 3. Vinifera.

I will address this in a limited fashion in regards to the economics I deal with and have a certain degree of familiarity. Yes I will miss many varieties, sorry I try and keep this blog brief and to the point as much as possible.

First let’s talk about Native American Grapes Vitis Labrusca.

Native American Grapes

Native American Grapes

As the term implies, they grow here, they grow very well but have certain characteristics that limit their acceptance in the wine world. The good news is they are very hearty as they should since they once grew wild in North America and were “domesticated” over time by people.

Probably the first was Muscadine. Mostly because it grew in what is now North Carolina where some of the first settlers arriving in the 1500’s tried to find some use for this plant that was growing all over the place. It is still grown in primarily in Southern states, mostly because it is one of the few varieties that can handle the heat and the soil types.

Muscadine Grapes

Muscadine Grapes

It took humans about 40 years to cultivate this grape into a “domesticated” variety that they could use for a variety of purposes.

In Ohio we are more or less limited to about three varieties that are popular today. Concord which usually makes a sweet red wine (Maize Valley Red Neck Red), Niagara a sweet white (MV Mad Cow) , and Catawba a blush (MV Hanky Panky).

Mad Cow

Mad Cow was named after one of our Holsteins from when we used to milk cows

Back at the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the 1900’s huge plantings of Catawba dominated the Cincinnati area making Ohio the largest grape growing region in the United States prior to a disease breakout that impacted the grapes and prohibition that finished them off.

Catabwa grape

Catabwa grape

Sweet wines make up the vast majority of wines sold in the U.S. by far comprising over 70% of wine sales. Drys are increasing with the millineal generation starting with sweeter wines from the start and older wine drinkers transitioning to dryer wines as they get more experience. However many of the new wine drinkers tend to start with sweeter wines such as the three noted above.

Next post will talk about the Vinifera grape I already went too long here!

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