By now I’m sure you’ve heard of Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon but did you know some grapes are actually “created”. Many of these grapes have names that you may have never heard of; Pinotage, Scheurube, Norton, Vignoles, Bacchus, Regent, Colombard, Seyval Blanc and Baco Noir to name a few. The number of these hybrid grapes are numerous but the reasoning is quite clear – to produce a superior grape for wine making. Some of these grapes are crossbred with well-established grapes like Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, while others are a product of blending normal varieties with other hybrid grapes. These grapes can be region specific so as to grow better in some countries versus other countries. So, if you try to find some of these wines here you may have trouble locating them. Here are a few examples of these unique grape hybrids and a little about them.
Norton (Cynthiana) – Introduced in Virginia from Dr. Daniel Norton in the early 19th century, the grape is a truly odd cross between a wild native vine and another hybrid grape. Although originally a Virginia grape that survived the prohibition period, the grape has been grown extensively in Missouri (as Cynthiana) and has been named their state wine. Norton produces a dry, deep-bodied wine with flavors of spice, coffee, deep-red berries and chocolate. Perfect with game birds or hearty beef dishes such as stews or grilled meats. One of the more strange side notes to this grape is that it is loaded in Anthocyanins and appears to have healthy properties such as antioxidants, antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories and anti-carcinogenics.
Pinotage – This grape variety is primarily grown in South Africa as well as some areas of California, Virginia and New Zealand, but is best known as South Africa’s signature wine. The grape is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (Hermitage) thus named Pinotage. This grape produces a deep-bodied wine with flavors of smoke and earth, but sometimes with a hint of tropical fruit. Great food pairing for this wine includes game fish, venison, smoked pork or even grilled meats.
Regent – This grape has European and American grapes in its wine pedigree and is actually named after the French Regent Diamond. This hybrid grape is a cross between Müller-Thurgau (Germany) and Chambourcin (United States) and is grown primarily in Germany, but in some areas of the United Kingdom as well. The wine this grape produces is a tannic wine with flavors of currants, cherries and black raspberries. This wine pairs well with many hearty beef dishes.
Bacchus – Bacchus is a German grape blend of Silvaner x Riesling crossed with Müller-Thurgau. The grape was given the name Bacchus after the Roman god of wine. The grape is grown primarily in Germany but is found in British Columbia as well as parts of the United Kingdom. The wine it produces has vast fruity flavors of flowers and honey. Food parings with this hearty white are roast pork, grilled vegetables and bold cheeses.
Scheurebe – Scheurebe was created by Dr. Georg Scheu and is a strange cross between Riesling and an unknown wild vine. The word “rebe” means vine so the name is derived from the Doctor’s name and “vine”. Grown primarily in Germany and Austria, the grape can be found in California, Oregon and Western Australia, too. The wine itself is a flavorful full-bodied wine with flavors of black currant although when noble rot has set in it then it is used as a dessert wine with flavors of grape and honey. Food paired well with this wine would be Asian food as well as seafood dishes with sauce.
Seyval Blanc – This grape is a hybrid created with Seibel 5656 and Rayon d’Or and is mainly grown in England as well as some areas of the United States (Virginia and New York) and Canada. The wine produced from this grape is a semi-dry to semi-sweet wine with citrus and mineral flavors that are better suited for oak barreling. Foods that pair well with this wine are pork dishes, Italian cream sauce pastas and poultry like turkey or chicken.
There are many types and styles of hybrid wines out there in the world. Stop by your local wine shop or look in your favorite restaurant for some of these hybrid wines and try one or two. I’ll let you in on something I like. I actually like Norton wines produced in Virginia (Horton Norton to be precise) – hard to find locally but worth the search. Enjoy!