4 Hybrid Wine Grapes and Why You Should Be Drinking Them

Hybrids have never gotten a lot of respect in the wine world, but you should keep your glass open to check out New York wines made from these grapes.

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Our summer 2014 issue just hit the streets, and inside is a story on one of my favorite New York State winemakers Carlo DeVito, the baron of Baco Noir. Not only is DeVito just a super nice guy, he’s got enough passion to fuel a nation — or, at least, a region on the rise. The Hudson Valley and its sister winemaking spots further upstate were long known for growing hybrid grapes: sturdy, cold-hardy cross species between Europe’s vitis vinifera and American-centric vitis riparia, vitis rupestris and vitis labrusca. But Latin lingo aside, hybrid grapes have never  gotten a lot of respect. DeVito certainly has been part and parcel to changing that, but he’s not the only one making magic in the bottle. Keep your glass open to check out the wines made from one of these hybrid grapes:

Baco Noir: As writer Lenn Thompson explains in the upcoming story, Baco can be beautiful. This red hybrid grape is, like all hybrids, the gorgeous child of a mixed marriage: Folle Blanche, a French white vitis vinifera grape, and a red vitis riparia. It produces medium-bodied wines that can range in style from rustic and inky to elegant and bright. I, for one, totally dig it. Get yourself some Hudson-Chatham Baco and behold its Burgundy-like allure.

Seyval Blanc: This interesting little quaff is a sort of hybrid of hybrids; an X-Men of grapes, if you will, with super powers! Mighty enough to withstand the nasty winters, but with a soft-spoken nature that makes pretty, fruit-forward whites that can stand on their own as still or sparkling versions, or, as many winemakers like to do, blended to add some of its trademark apple and peach notes to the mix. Clinton Vineyards makes a lovely sparkling (and a great cassis — put them together for a really special Kir), as well as a straight-up version worth checking out.

Vignoles: If you love Riesling, this is your hybrid. Vignoles (pronounced vin-yohl), also known sometimes as Ravat, is a cross between a French-American hybrid and a clone of Pinot Noir. It’s super aromatic — think flowers, flowers, flowers — and makes really pretty, delicate off-dry whites. Keuka Lake Vineyards does gorgeous things with it; it’s a favorite.

Vidal Blanc: Charming as all get out, white Vidal Blanc is the main grape varietal in Brooklyn Oenology and Vino50’s collaborative juicy project, Shindig (you can hit up her Williamsburg tasting room if you want to try it out, and you should). But Vidal likes to chill out, too — when the winter weather allows (and, in the Niagara region, it allows more often than other spots) Leonard Oakes Winery hand-harvests their frozen Vidal in thirteen degree weather to make one outstanding ice wine. It’s worth a lot more than they charge for it, so if you see it, do not hesitate — get it.

This post is sponsored by TasteNY.

Photo credit: Jennifer May

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Amy Zavatto is the daughter of an old school Italian butcher who used to sell bay scallops alongside steaks, and is also the former Deputy Editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She holds her Level III Certification in Wine and Spirits from the WSET, and contributes to Imbibe, Whisky Advocate, SOMMJournal, Liquor.com, and others. She is the author of Forager's Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients and The Architecture of the Cocktail. She's stomped around vineyards from the Finger Lakes to the Loire Valley and toured distilleries everywhere from Kentucky to Jalisco to the Highlands of Scotland. When not doing all those other things, Amy is the Director of the Long Island Merlot Alliance.