Monday, February 1, 2016

Rant: Vermont, Hybrids & Respect

I feel sorry for grapes like Baco Noir, Marechal Foch, LaCrescent, and Marquette. Though they are used to make wine in a number of U.S. states, they far too often get very little respect from wine lovers because of their parentage. These grapes are hybrids, not pure vitis vinifera like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Because they are not considered "pure," a fair number of people look down upon them, sometimes even shunning them.

Is this grape racism or pure snobbery? Shouldn't these hybrid grapes be judged by the quality of their wine rather than the identity of their parents?

As I previously mentioned, this June, I'll be attending TasteCamp 2016, which will be held in scenic Vermont. Approximately forty bloggers, writers and their guests will attend TasteCamp, tasting our way through Vermont's wineries, breweries and distilleries. Some of the wines we will taste will be made from hybrid grapes and this won't be our first time. In previous TasteCamps, we also sampled wines produced from hybrids. Personally, I've enjoyed a number of those wines and know a fair number of other attendees who also enjoyed them.

In addition, on prior visits to Vermont, I'vve enjoyed wines made from hybrids including grapes such as Sabrevois, St. Croix, Louise Swenson, and Frontenac. In fact, Boyden Valley Winery produced an amazing ice wine from Frontenac, which could compete with many excellent dessert wines produced from vitas vinifera. I expect to find some other delicious hybrid wines at TasteCamp 2016.

Vitis vinifera is the common grape vine, the one most used for making wine, especially the so-called "great" wines. All of the major grapes of which you are familiar are likely these types of grapes, from Pinot Noir to Syrah, from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Blanc. Hybrids are a cross of two or more Vitis species, such as vitis vinifera and vitis labrusca. They are often created by people seeking a hardier grape, especially for colder northern climates. Because they are not pure vitis vinifera, some people turn up their noses at these hybrids, refusing to believe they can produce quality wine. Drop that pretentiousness and judge these wines by their taste.

Sure there are poor quality wines made from hybrids, but there are plenty of poor quality wines made from vitis vinifera too. Yet there are some excellent wines made from these hybrids as well, and a wine lover would be hard pressed to guess they were hybrids simply from tasting the wine. You should approach a wine without prejudices or biases, willing to taste the wine and let it stand on its own. If you do so, you will probably find plenty of delicious wines that you might never have experienced otherwise.

Stop being a vitis vinifera snob!

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