Join the club

7 October 2009
By Tom Mansell

You may or may not have heard of the Wine Century Club. This organization has a great premise: Try wines with 100 different grape {varieties}. They don’t necessarily have to be {varietal wines}, blends are perfectly legitimate. Heck, with the right Châteauneuf-du-Pape you could theoretically knock down 13 varieties in one glass. Anyway, I think that this is a great idea and a great way to get wine lovers to explore a small percentage of the approximately 10,000 different grape varieties grown in the world today.

Based on my recollection, an informal count of the varieties they have listed on their application puts me at around 79, and I was able to come up with about 23 that weren’t on the list that I have had. So I guess I could theoretically put in my application now.

I wondered, though, why I had had so many “obscure” varieties that these professional winos didn’t have listed. It’s not because I seek out the most obscure grape varieties I can find (even though I do). It’s because I live in a cool-climate viticulture region, and one of the pillars on which the industry in the Finger Lakes stands is native and interspecific hybrid grape varieties. Concord, Catawba, and Niagara you may have heard of. But Diamond? Frontenac? Scuppernong? Are these not grapes? Are these not Vitis spp.? They certainly are, and they are important not only to historical American winemaking, but to viticulture in many American wine regions today. Often, these wines are met with a snobbery usually reserved for 2-buck Chuck. I would like, if I can, to try to change that. That’s why I have decided to:

TASTE 100 DIFFERENT HYBRID WINES

wcc

Rules:

  • Any non-vinifera wines count.  With the exception of muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia), most wine grapes have some Vitis vinifera in their ancestry, even Concord and Niagara.  So “native” grapes count, as do French-American hybrids like Maréchal Foch, and newly-bred hybrids like Corot Noir and Frontenac.  As long as it’s technically a grape and not purely Vitis vinifera, if it’s vinified, it counts.
  • Blends count.  I think it would be nearly impossible to find 100 varietal hybrid wines, as many hybrid grapes are used almost exclusively for blending (flavor and color).
  • Bonus points for hybrid varietal wines, but no guarantees.
  • My lifetime hybrid count (est. about 30) resets, starting yesterday, October 6, 2009.

You’ll be able to track my progress in the sidebar on the right once I start tasting hybrids.  Chances are that some of them are going to be absolutely vile.  That may be the case, but I guarantee you I will find some stellar hybrid wines on this journey.

Some say it can’t be done.  Notable naysayers (sort of) so far, via Tweetdeck:

Picture 12

Do you have hybrid suggestions?  Have you had a varietal Steuben, Alden, or other obscure hybrid?  Let me know and I will do everything within my power to taste it.

Tomorrow: A comparative tasting of blends featuring Hybrid #1: Noiret.

Note: This activity is not endorsed or recommended by the Wine Century Club… yet! I have no affiliation with them, but when I reach 100 I will fill out my membership application using entirely hybrid varieties.

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2 Responses to Join the club

  1. Michael Gorton, Jr. on 7 October 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Wow…great idea. Good Luck. I still have yet to try a single one.

  2. [...] un esprit similaire, Tom Mansell de Ithacork s’est lancé un défi: déguster 100 cépages hybrides différents. L’expérience est de pousser le concept du Wine Century à l’extrême et [...]

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