Monday, March 26, 2007
Muscadine or Vitis rotundifolia is often considered “America’s First Grape” and was consumed by the earliest explorers and settlers. In 1840, North Carolina was the largest wine producing state in the Union and the best selling wine before Prohibition was a muscadine blend called “Virginia Dare”. Today the grape flourishes in the southeast United States, where several types of muscadine are grown: Scuppernong, Carlos, Magnolia and Noble. Muscadine wine can be made either sweet as a dessert wine or sometimes dry.
North Carolina is still the largest producer of muscadine wine and state organizations encourage its production from the North Carolina Grape Council to the North Carolina Muscadine Grape Association. The North Carolina State Fair even has a separate entry for Best Muscadine wine which was won by Old North State Winery’s Starlight White in 2004.
Hinnant Family Vineyards & Winery is the largest muscadine vineyard in North Carolina. The Hinnant family started growing muscadine grapes because of the tremendous health affects noted above. They currently produce 5,000 cases of muscadine wine annually from dry Noble and Carlos to their Muscadine Blush and sweet Tarheel Red. Their wines have won awards through out competitions in the southeast as well as the New York Finger Lakes International Competition. In addition to the muscadine wine, the winery produces thousands of gallons of muscadine juice which is sold to grocery stores. Whereas their sweet muscadine wines have gained customer acceptance in the southeast, Hinnant Family Vineyards is working to convince the wine public that their dry muscadine wines are good alternatives to the more familiar dry red wines. They are looking forward to the day when muscadine wines become a household name.
There are also several muscadine producers distributed throughout South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and even Texas. One of our favorite wineries, South Carolina’s La Belle Amie Vineyard, provides several opportunities each year to sample their muscadine wine by hosting themed festivals. In Florida, the muscadine grape grows with a slightly thicker skin then its northern neighbors, which produces a slightly sweeter grape. Florida wineries take advantage of this anomaly by creating sweeter versions of muscadine wine. Rosa Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard’s Red Muscatine Dessert is a Gold winning dessert wine and San Sebastian Winery fortifies muscadine to produce an excellent port.
During our Compass Tours we have visited several wineries that specialize in muscadine wine and have become enthusiastic supporters of the grape. In addition to the discussed health benefits we believe muscadine wine should have a spot in your wine cellar.