By Simone Bergese
The Southern Fox. What a lovely name for the grapevine species that represents the native and original viticulture identity of the Southeast and South Central areas of the United States. You might know her better under the name of Muscadine or Scuppernong, but her real name is Vitis Muscadinia Rotundifolia.
From Florida to Delaware, and from Texas to Oklahoma, the several dozen different cultivars of Muscadine have been extensively cultivated since the 16th century for many purposes such as eating the fruit fresh, making jelly, juices and yes, wine!
Every time I talk about wine, I always bring up one of the most important and unique aspects of it; the wide range of varieties, characters and stiles that the wine world has to offer.
How lucky are Georgians to be able to claim the Muscadine variety as native to our state? The best attributes of the Muscadine, are its originality and close connection with Georgia’s specific terroir. The species is so strong that you can find it growing wildly in the woods throughout the state. If deer could talk, they would tell you how much they love to have such a sweet fruit ripening wildly with no human intervention!
The secret to why this specific grapevine adapted so well to the humid and hot conditions of the South, is in the DNA. Muscadine, unlike the majority of the varieties from the Vitis Vinifera species, developed a preservation mechanism that makes it resistant and immune to the major plant diseases. This means you can grow Muscadine without pesticide or insecticide and still have a luscious vine with excellent fruit.
Part of the preservation system is due to the abundance of polyphenols and other nutrients in seeds and skins, often studied for their potential health benefits. Bottom line, this pool of natural antioxidant protects the Muscadine and everybody else who is eats her grapes!
I’d like to shake hands with the first bunch of primordial winemakers in Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida who started to transform the Muscadine juice into wine. They had no idea how successful that wine would become in the Southeast years later. Every grocery store has Muscadine wine and even a couple of the more recent and famous country songs talk about Muscadine.
The beloved sweet Muscadine wine! At Château Elan, we celebrate this great variety in our vineyards and in our cellar. Over the past few years, we have embraced this phenomenon and began to offer Muscadine in a semi-sweet, an off-dry and completely dry versions. Dropping the residual sugar content in this wine revealed some other aromatic features of the variety itself that were hidden, something that both long-time Muscadine lovers and newcomers to the Muscadine world appreciated and praised.
We also do something else here with Muscadine, we don’t use a lot of sulphites! This is made possible by a very low pH and high acidity content that the fruit naturally has. A superberry made into wine, it really can’t get any better than that!
Cheers y’all! Simone