Favorite Grape: Is it Possible to Have One?

People have asked me, “What is your favorite grape?”

This is not an easy question to answer, so I generally have to pose a question right back at them.

“Are you asking for my favorite red, white, American or Old World, or are you asking what I prefer above all others?”

You see, there are countless varietals out there.  In Italy alone there are over 350 grapes listed with ‘authorized’ status for wine production, and over 500 documented varietals in circulation.  Choosing a grape from the hundreds and thousands of different grapes and placing it at the top of the tier as my favorite is a daunting task.  Luckily, of the small fraction of grape varietals I’ve had the good fortune of tasting and working with, a couple come to mind right away.

Out of the white varietals common to the Midwest, Brianna and Edelweiss are at the top of my list.   They share many characteristics and can even be mistaken for each other depending on the experience of the taster and the method in which they have been prepared.

Both are good producers, can withstand cold temperatures, and both are a bit susceptible to diseases such as anthracnose.

The best part about these grapes is that you can do just about anything with them.  They can make great wines, which can either be sweet or dry.  They are also very good table grapes when fully ripe.  The juice is fantastic and incredibly flavorful, and can be used for jelly, or simply as it is at the breakfast table.  The flavors are rich and buttery with an almost sweet apple finish.  And one of my favorite parts is that the juice tastes as if it were sweetened with honey.

If you fancy a cool weather drink, the juice is fantastic when served warm, much like you would serve warm cider.  Give it to an unsuspecting guest and you are guaranteed to raise eyebrows.  They’ll likely ask where you got the honey-sweetened cider.

I was always told by other vineyard managers to pick these grapes at about 15% sugar.  It was said that if they were allowed to ripen to 20% sugar then the wines would have a labrusca (or foxiness) quality.   But since I never once came across that issue, I have changed my methods and pick at around 20% sugar.  The result is a higher quality and strength of the fruit flavors.

All in all, these grapes provide versatility.  Not only do they make good wine, they make for good eating, good jelly making, and good drinking in general – very useful grapes, indeed.

If you have a chance to taste these varietals, I’m sure you will enjoy them.

And if you have any interest in hearing about some of the other grapes I have an interest in, stay tuned for my next article.  I won’t be able to tell you my favorite, though – the world of grape varietals is incredible diverse.  How can I choose one when so many have great attributes?  It’s certainly a struggle.