The Mark Wine News Summer '18 Volume 8.3 - Page 20

THE HISTORY OF WINE B y L i s a G m u r , C SW When I last left off, we were in in Italy, Germany and Spain as they adopted their own wine laws based on the French AOC system. Well, to continue, we will actually head a little back in time to the history of wine in the United States. I was surprised to learn that the first European settlers actually called North America “Vinland” due to the abundant grape vines they discovered throughout the New World. Ironically, these first native species of grape (Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia, Vitis rotundifolia, Vitis vulpina, and Vitis amurensis), are not the ones responsible for today’s U.S. wine industry. That honor belongs to the European Vitis vinifera, which was brought to the New World by European settlers. Like you, I wondered why the Europeans thought to introduce a new grape species to a fertile land already filled with grapevines. The story is a fascinating one that when you dissect it is really two very different histories of how wine production evolved in the United States; the initial founding of the East Coast, and then the Manifest Destiny expansion into the West. The vast difference between the two remains The Judgement of Paris (1976) Winemaker Frank Hasek with crew in the Korbel cellar (late 1800s) evident in the distinct wines these regions produce today. The earliest wine made was from the grapevine Vitis rotundifolia, more commonly called Scuppernong grapes. French settlers near Jacksonville, Florida endeavored to make wines with this grape between 1562 and 1564. Although the grapes did not produce successful wines, the Scuppernong (a large, green grape) maintained its place in American culture: one particular 400-year-old vine from Roanoke Island holds the title as “oldest cultivated vine”, and the 18 Scuppernong is also the state fruit of North Carolina. In fact author Harper Lee made mention of the fruit in To Kill a Mockingbird. However all was not lost. The failed Scuppernong vines marked the beginning of a long road of trial and error for New World winemakers. Thankfully, the settlers possessed an impressive amount of perseverance to produce quality wines; in fact, in the early American colonies of Virginia and the Carolinas, wine making was an official objective laid out in their founding charters. However, it turned out to be more of “try and try again.” Unfortunately the native grapes had unfamiliar and unappealing flavors to the European settlers. This made room for the European grapes they were more familiar with. The growth of Vitis vinifera varieties began when French vinifera vines were exported to Virginia in 1619. However, these early plantings of foreign vines were greeted with failure due to native pests and vine diseases which ravaged the vineyards. To combat these pests, winemakers began interbreeding native and foreign vines, creating a disease-resistant vine with the flavor characteristics of European varietals they knew and loved. It’s believed that in 1683, William Penn planted the first of these hybrids: a vineyard of French Vitis vi ɄAمѡЁ)Q!5I,]%99]L