If you have followed this blog you know that I’m fascinated by uncommon wine grapes and where they are being grown by innovative vintners. I usually write about grapes that originated in other parts of the world but today I’m writing about a grape that was developed in the United States and is widely planted in my home state of Pennsylvania.
Traminette was created in 1965 at the University of Illinois by crossing the Vitis vinifera grape Gewürztraminer and the French-American hybrid grape Joannes Seyve 23.416. It was originally created as a white table grape but was then found to possess qualities that make it favorable for making wine. The result was a grape with a complex flavor profile, good productivity, resistance to cold temperatures, and versatility in the cellar. Traminette produces a straw-colored wine that has an enticing floral aroma and flavors of apricot, honey, and to a lesser extent, tropical fruit. I had the pleasure of tasting Traminette juice as it flowed from the press at Ripepi Wnery & Vineyard Monongahela, PA. It was bright and had a depth of sweetness with a flavor that is hard to describe. Traminette is most often made in a dry to off-dry style. I like both styles but prefer the off-dry wine when enjoying a day at the winery with my friends.
Traminette can be found throughout Pennsylvania but is most heavily concentrated in the southeastern and northcentral regions.
I am not a big fan of bottle caps on wine bottles. I have no problem with screw tops or wine in cans but when I see a wine bottle with a cap on top I think back to my childhood and remember bottles of my favorite “Pop” Regent Cherry soda. In Western Pennsylvania carbonated soft drinks, like Coke and Pepsi, were and still are to a certain extent referred to as “Pop”. Maybe it was a shortening of soda pop that led to this regional slang.
Rosé has been riding a steadily ascending arc of popularity over the past several years. I have heard reports that Rosé sales hit their crescendo in the Summer of 2017 and have consolidated over the last 18 months. Although Rosé is thought of as just a summer wine by many it is a category that has proven itself and is here to stay. Traditionally Rosé sales peak during the warm months but year round sales are starting to rise as people realize that this wine pairs well with food in any season.
Orange wine is a curiosity to me because I like to try new things. It has received plenty of attention but I don’t know where it fits into the big picture when it comes to wine in general. We will have to wait and see if it will be taking a place in your wine collection or in the closet next to your Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Dolls.
My prediction for Chinese wine is that it is too early to tell if all the money China has invested in its domestic wine industry will pay off. There is certainly enough demand for better wine in China now that its middle class is expanding exponentially. In time I believe China will become a major player in the world wine market simply because it has a diverse collection of growing regions, climates, terroirs and affordable labor that can be developed. Will their wines taste like traditional European or New World wines? No, they will taste like those traditional wines made from grapes grown in Chinese soils and expressing a terroir unique to China.
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to sweet wine, French-American hybrid wine and Vitis vinifera wine. Every winemaker that I have visited in Western Pennsylvania is always eager to have me taste their dry wines but are quick to admit that it is the sweet wines that “Keep the lights on”. While it is true the sweeter wines make up the largest segment of wines sold in local wineries it is also true that interest in dry wine is increasing as tastes evolve and wine drinkers look for something new. I have always said that a “Good” wine is one you enjoy drinking. My theory is that many of the people who start going to wineries with friends will enjoy the easy to drink sweet wines and will be content with these wines. Some will become curious and explore the French-American hybrid wines, of which there are many and can be found in both dry and sweet styles. The wines made from French-American hybrid grapes can provide a bridge from sweet wines to Vitis vinifera wines. It is easier for a wine drinker to transition from the sweeter offerings to the drier Vitis vinifera wines by learning to appreciate the differences in wine grapes and the different styles that they can be made into by experiencing these approachable hybrid wines.
I believe wine is at it’s best when enjoyed while making lasting memories with friends and family. If you are doing it right you will always remember the good times and the people but you probably won’t recall what wine you were drinking. Just Saying!
When I was in Monongahela, Pa recently I visited my friends at the Ripepi Winery & Vineyard. I couldn’t have picked a better time to visit because Rich Ripepi and Pete Abvulovic had just unpacked their new Hanna Total Acid and Ph machine for the lab and were setting it up. Rich said the vineyard had come though the winter in great shape. Today turned out to be my lucky day because Rich had a book he thought I would enjoy reading. Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada by J. Stephen Casscles. It is a comprehensive work covering every aspect of propagating cool climate wine grapes in the northern U.S. and Canada.
He approaches the subject from an expert’s point of view drawing upon his lifetime of experience in the Hudson Valley of New York. This publication can be viewed as the most in-depth account of the history of hybridization of cool climate grapevines ever published. Casscles has cataloged the genetic heritage of an amazing number of hybridized grapes by the person or organization that developed them. I think you will be surprised to learn where the genetic material of your favorite grapes came from and why they exhibit the characteristics they do. You may also be disappointed to find out that there is no such thing as a pure strain of grape. The truth is they all have genes from other strains in their genetic profile. To prove this fact Casscles uses the example of the “pure” Chardonnay grape. Chardonnay is a combination of a Pinot
Title Page Signed by J. Stephen Casscles
Noir clone and the bulk white wine/table grape Gouais Blanc.
This book is a must read for anyone growing or wanting to grow wine grapes in a cool climate region of North America. It provides the reader with an immense amount of information and has references to almost any information resource you may need. If you are looking for a handbook/field guide/reference publication for cool climate grapes this is the book for you.