Finger Lakes Wine Society - Labrusca Grapes
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Labrusca Grapes

The Labrusca grape type, also known as "Native American" grapes have a varying reputation depending on who you ask. The wine novice will tell you how wonderful the Native wines are, while the more sophisticated wine consumer may have never allowed Labrusca wine to touch his or her lips. Labrusca wines are known for being sweet and grapey- a term called "foxy" often applies to describing these wines.

Native American grapes are the hardiest of the three types of grapes grown in the Finger Lakes. These grapes, aside from being very cold hardy, are also more resistant to root rot diseases like phyloxera and even possibly less prone to damage from certain insects. However, as most oenophiles will tell you, the lowly Labrusca grape, generally speaking, doesn't make the best wine. Regardless, Labrusca grapes are grown in great quantities around Finger Lakes for other reasons, primarily- grape juice! Many Finger Lakes grape growers have lifetime contracts with Welch's Native American grapes are also perfect for making jams, jellies and the famous "Grape Pie"! If you haven't ever had a Finger Lakes Grape Pie, you are missing something wonderful!

Here's some of the Native American varieties of grapes you can find around the Finger lakes:

The Concord grape was developed in 1849 by Ephraim Wales Bull in Concord, Massachusetts.   With this grape, he won first place at the Boston Horticultural Society Exhibition in 1853.  Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch developed pasteurized Concord grape juice in 1869 and first introduced it to his church as communion wine!
Not a preferred grape for wine making, Concord is the grape used most often to make grape jelly and grape juice.  Sometimes used as table grapes, but not too often anymore as most people prefer seedless grape varieties.   Concords are also the primary grape in Grape Pies, found at many roadside stands all over the Finger Lakes.  Some wineries do use Concord for wine making with varying degrees of success. 
Concords are grown widely in the Finger Lakes as evidenced by their strong fruity smell in the fall at harvest time.  Many growers sell their grapes to Welch’s who provide lifetime contracts to their growers.  Some families in the Finger Lakes have been growing grapes for Welch’s for generations!

The Niagara grape, without a doubt, is one of the most "grapey" of all grapes you can make into wine. This very intense, almost an oily kind of grapiness is often referred to as a "foxy" character. With the Niagara, this foxiness is taken to the extreme, bringing a nose almost like diesel fuel. When Niagara is included in a blend, it makes its presence known.

Niagara is the leading grape grown in the United States! Niagara is a great variety of grapes for the table and even better for juice, jams & jellies. However, most wine aficionados are put-out by the grapiness of the Niagara and many of the other Native American or Labrusca varietals. Most Niagara is used for white grape juice. Just like the Concord variety, Welch's buys a huge share of the Niagara crop grown in the Finger Lakes Viticultural Region.



This list is in progress...
If you grow a vinifera grape in the Finger Lakes that is not listed here, we would like to hear about it! Please let us know!


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