Hybrids and Other Vitis Species – A Struggle for Me – James Melendez


I have struggled with the topic of Hybrid grapes for sometime.  I didn’t think it fair that I dismiss this wine grape category summarily.  But on another hand I haven’t found a producer or even a variety that I loved let alone liked.  I was concerned that if I liked hybrids my view of pure play Vitis vinifera would be in question.  But I have thought through the subject carefully and I now feel comfortable to talk about this with some learning and education and experience.  

I can say that I have tried other wine grape species like Vitis aestivalis and Vitis labrusca and cannot say that I do not care for these wine grape species–depending on the grape–foxy certainly is an accurate description and in other wine grapes can be too linear and even too heavy.  Speaking of foxy flavour characteristics–I have been asked what that taste like.  I’d say-it’s as if a fox’s tail had dipped into a vat of wine–the foxy flavour can live on for an annoying long period of time.

I remember I was at a dinner in Italy one time and I was so looking forward to dessert and the dessert wine until I tasted it.  Full on foxy-sweetness; one sip I looked at my dinner companions and we knew no Vitis vinifera were harmed in the making of this wine.  I asked those around if they knew the grape utilised in the wine–had to be something I had never tasted before Vitis rotundifolia maybe?  I felt the need to brush my teeth and tongue.  

The past two years I have spent in wine countries where there are population of hybrid wine grapes: Quebec, Ontario, Okanagan Valley, and Finger Lakes.  My first experience with hybrids several years back and I recall thinking them un-remarkable or if there is something else available–namely Vitis vinifera I would prefer that.  I was in Quebec in May of the year (2015) and tasted several producer from the province where there were hybrid varieties blended with Vitis vinifera grapes and it was at this point I thought these were successful wines.  The hybrid to vinifera grapes were in support.  Hybrid varieties for me don’t tend to  have a long finish–it can be a bit too brief for my liking. Vitis vinifera were not just a back up partner to the hybrids but accentuated for a fuller experience on tongue and scent.  

One of my favourite wines tasted in Montreal was Solinou, Domaine Les Pervenches which is a combination and a very interesting red/white blend: Frontenac, Chardonnnay, Zweigelt, and Pinot Noir (I not know the breakdown of varieties).  I think the play with Vitis vinifera and a hybrid made a very unique and compelling wine.  So nicely pairing with the glorious food I ordered at my favourite wine bar in Montreal Pullman.

I also tasted a pure play hybrid wine that I thought was successful by producer Vignoble d’Oka Mystère Rouge 2013 a blend of Frontenac 60% and Sabrevois 40% which are more highly regarded Hybrids–this was not a gamey or foxy wine but a much ore fruit forward wine that I enjoyed.  I imagined pairing this with a fine plate of charcuterie.  I was glad to see this being poured at the Vino Volo at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Aéroports de Montréal.

I was just in Finger Lakes which still has a large number of Hybrids and I tasted a number–I didn’t dislike but I didn’t fall in love with any particular hybrid grape, wine or producer.  But I have to point out that while I was in the Fingers Lakes the majority of wines available for tasting were Vitis vinifera – a bit more difficult to find the hybrids.

My friend Todd Tzarkos is a winemaker and blogger that I first met at the Virginia Wine Bloggers Conference several years ago.  I had the privilege of seeing Todd at the Wine Bloggers Conference latest edition in Corning, New York this past August.  And each time he comes to a WBC he is the Ambassador for All Things Vermont – wine, beer, and cider.

Todd is holding Lincoln Peak Limestone White Wine Vermont 2014 – this wine is a blend of Frontenac Blanc and LaCrescent.


Todd also brought his own wine–he calls it North Country Ferments Arctic White Blend 2013 which is a blend of Adelmiina, St. Pepin, Aromella, Petite Amie, and LaCresent, The only grape I had ever tasted before in this blend was LaCrescent.  I double checked making sure the other wine varieties were in my wine grape taxonomy and they all were–even Adelmiina.  I found this white wine blend pleasant, refreshing on the hot New York day I was tasting.   I was delighted to taste a wine from the soil of Vermont.  I look forward to tasting many more wines from Todd in the future.

I think many hybrid producers in the US and Canada are generally working very hard to bring their wines to the market place and honing in on good, better, optimum hybrids–hybrid grapes just like Vitis vinifera have wine grapes that dominant and that can be said for many hybrid wine grapes.

I remember hearing Indiana Wine Grape Council Executive Director Jeanette Merritt speak several years ago at a Wine Bloggers Conference and she said with respect to lesser known wine grapes and wine regions “Keep an open mind.”  I think that is a great comment.

I know that I am passionate about Vitis vinifera and I have sought to learn and experience hybrid grapes and to keep that open mind.

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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One Response to Hybrids and Other Vitis Species – A Struggle for Me – James Melendez

  1. I am with you brother–I have yet to taste a hybrid grape that makes me want to drink more of it. Here in PA, everyone seems to think Chambourcin is good for making wine. It’s not. It’s horrible and all of it should be ripped out and replanted with Cab Franc.

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