Achieving Balance. All those flavors!
One of the most frequent questions that I get during a wine tasting is "where do you get the fruit flavors for in the wines?" Most people think I use fruit juice concentrates. No. The answer is simple - those flavors only come from the grapes. We don't use any fruit concentrates to enhance the taste of our wines.
As you read down our tasting notes, you'll see the following:
Lemon and Citrus (Seyval)
Pineapple, Herbs, and Pink Grapefruit (Brianna)
Cranberry (China Girl)
Blueberry and Blackberry (Dragonfly Red)
Flowers, Apple and Pear (Dragonfly White)
Mandarin Oranges, Tangerines, Lemon, and Lime (Sonrisa)
Raspberry, Nectarine, and McIntosh Apple (Blushing Bride)
White Grape (Niagara)
Strawberries, Concord Grape, and Blackberry (Red One)
We have planted new grape varietals in our vineyard. Yes, very different from many other vineyards in New England. We did this for several reasons. The main reason being - to use as blending components. Alpenglow, Orion, and Prairie Star are all (relatively) low acid grapes. By blending low acid grape juice with high acid grapes (especially the Frontenac family grapes), we can achieve much more balanced wine chemistry naturally.
This is not a new idea. In France, blending is the norm. Did you wonder why French wines largely do not have varietal designations? You rarely (if ever?) see Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir on the labels. It is because each region has several approved (by law) grapes that can be blended together - in different quantities from year to year - to achieve the right flavor and chemistry balance in wines. Here in America we have no such laws about what grapes can be used. We're still figuring it out. Appolo Vineyards' blends will vary from year to year - some experimentation and some to provide more interesting wines. Another reason - we don't want juice to go to waste. Making a small case quantity of a varietal wine just doesn't interest me.
Hybrid grapes are grown here because European grapes won't (1) survive the winter, (2) produce fruit after exposure to -5F winters, and (3) ripen fruit in a short summer. All the NH and NY grapes in our wines are from hybrid grape vines.
We started planting Brianna here 10 years ago. I liked the vine, grape, and wine so much that I planted a lot more of it. In August 2016 we harvested nearly a ton of that varietal - all grown without pesticides. This is one of our signature wines. When I first read descriptions of Brianna, there seemed to be several bad attributes for this grape. Some of the main complaints others had for this grape - a foxy flavor (like Niagara) when the grape gets too ripe and has to be finished sweet because of the high acidity (when picked under-ripe). I have not needed to harvest this early and not witnessed any foxy flavor in 10 years of growing this grape. The grape smells and tastes like pineapple. Because it has a relatively low acidity, it is very manageable in the winery as varietal wine. Blending is not needed.
Grapes such as Alpenglow, Orion, Prairie Star, and Brianna were unknown a few years ago. Other than this vineyard, very little Brianna is grown in New England. Prairie Star is popping up in other vineyards in NH. It gives nice citrus notes to many of the wines. Orion is much more subtle (neutral) it doesn't give much in terms of sugar or taste, but grows well without sprays and helps to balance the wine chemistry when blended with other grapes.
Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, and Maréchal Foch were the new kids on the (vineyard) block just 10 years ago. Marquette joined the scene just a few years back. By exposing customers to those varietal wines, the wineries here in NH have made them more prominent. I believe the red varietals make great blending components to each other for blends. That is why we have a Dragonfly Red (Frontenac, Maréchal Foch, Marquette) with all of those wonderful fruit flavors that play off of each other.
The high acidity Frontenac Gris (Nectarine) blends well with the low acidity Alpenglow (McIntosh apple). The resulting wine (Blushing Bride) was an immediate hit in the tasting room. Another wine grown without pesticides here. Another signature wine.
We have also planted a grape called "Regent". We've been searching for the perfect red wine grape. While I still haven't decided if this is "the one" for here, I believe it will be much more prominent in the near future. It is related to Chambourcin (China Girl & The Muse), but believed to be much more fungus resistant and more able to withstand the winter. This German varietal could give us in New England a hearty red wine that we just haven't seen yet. The photo on this blog entry is that grape. Wonderful tannins, sugar level, and acidity. Because of the limited quantity, this grape will be in a blend this year, but hopefully in a varietal wine for 2017...
As anyone who has been to our vineyard can see, our land is full. We're working with other growers to recommend new varietals (and subsequently buy the grapes). If you are reading this and want to grow some grapes, please email me.
[One of my future blogs will be all about grape breeding and where to find information about growing grapes.]