6/09/2006

So what is a hybrid ?

Vidal Blanc

While at the festival over the weekend, I made a mental note of frequently asked questions I heard while tasting. Over the next few weeks I will be presenting those questions and providing some basic answers. Please feel free to comment, correct or add if you like.

A hybrid in simple form is a grape or vine created by breeding two varieties from different species. Vitis vinifera is a very popular European species and is responsible for most (99%) of the wine produced around the world today. Popular examples, among the endless Vitis vinifera varieties include Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.

Also to note is the lesser known, North American species Vitis labrusca, whose most popular varieties are the Concord and Catawba.

So why produce a hybrid you ask? The simple answer is to take the strong and/or desired characteristics of each parent and pass them to the child so to speak. In fact many hybrids were produced in response to the phylloxera outbreak in Europe in the late 19th century, as well to stand up to other sorts of adversity (environment, disease, weather, etc).

Virginia plants several hybrids, but I will only note the 2 that I tasted at the festival. Vidal Blanc and Seyval Blanc are French-American hybrid varieties made respectively from Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrusca, which have European taste characteristics, but American vine hardiness.

Seyval Blanc
Seyval Blanc is a crisp and refreshing, light to medium wine, usually with grapefruit and other citrus flavors. Vidal Blanc, due to its high sugar levels, makes some very good Late Harvest and ‘Ice styled’ wines here in Virginia. Vidal Blanc can also be equally dry to semi-sweet with fruit and floral characteristics.

With the warm weeks ahead, now is a great time to enjoy some Virginia Seyval or Vidal Blanc.

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