JEFFERSON CITY — Wines with names like Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles aren’t all that well known, certainly not like their cousins Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. Why is that, and why do Missouri winemakers choose to grow these lesser known wine grapes? The answer is fairly simple… weather and disease.
The most common wine grapes that you are probably used to hearing and seeing all over the place are called vinifera. The official definition of vinifera according to Merriam-Webster is “a common European grape (Vitis vinifera) that is the chief source of Old World wine and table grape varieties.” Essentially it is the Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs of the wine world. However, those grape varieties don’t hold up well in demanding weather conditions such as cold winters and hot, humid summers. They’re also susceptible to pests and diseases such as phylloxera and powdery mildew.
One of the solutions for grape growers in Missouri and other regions with harsh weather conditions is hybrid grapes developed to be hardier and more resilient than their parents. This hybridization of wine grapes goes back to the 1800s, but many of the varieties being grown in Missouri today were developed or adjusted at Cornell University as part of their grape breeding program in the 1980s.
Missouri vintners face a number of challenges when growing high-quality grapes and then making wines from the fruits of their labor, literally. They face issues such as weather, soil, amount of sunlight, and the list goes on, but they are rising to the occasion and continue to make award-winning wines that are garnering recognition on a national and sometimes international level.
Missouri’s red wine hybrid grape varieties:
- St. Vincent
- Marechal Foch
Missouri’s white wine hybrid grape varities:
- Vidal Blanc
- Seyval Blanc
Missouri Vintners also grow a number of native American varietals such as Norton (the state’s official grape), Catawba and Concord.
Next time you’re visiting one of Missouri’s more than 130 wineries, take the time to taste and learn a little more about the unique and delicious grape varieties we grow here in Show Me wine country. Cheers!
— Missouri Wines
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