This was a question that was asked during this morning’s panel.
Tis is the kind of question that makes me crazy. It falls into the same barrel of monkeys as “Sweet wines are inferior,” and “Gamay is a crappy grape” and last but not least, “Can you believe I had a good wine from (fill in the blank).
The expectation that hybrids are are going to taste like the six vinifera varietals that most Americans drink is ridiculous. This attitude keeps people from exploring wines from new places or to even on an unfamiliar wine list. Hybrids and labrusca grapes are part of the American wine culture. Dr. Daniel Norton created the Norton grape in the early 19th century and it has gone on the be the state grape of Missouri and Arkansas and Riedel has made a glass to emphasize its aroma and color. Nicholas Longsworth was making sparkling Catawba in Ohio that was winning gold medals in Paris in the 1850s. And finally, and most importantly, these grapes saved the European wine industry when it was destroyed by phylloxera. Now that issue has been solved (on labrusca stocks, btw) and vinifera now reigns supreme again, it is NOT acceptable to go kick the hybrids.
That being said, I have questions about quality of the hybrids. I think there is too much emphasis on sheer tonnage. Green harvests would improve the quality of the grapes available for vinification. Additionally the modernization of the wine making techniques used to produce these wines would probably make a positive impact as well.
One participant at the conference suggested that wines are worth if they can age well and show a sense of place. Well, I have tried numerous Chambourcins and can assure you that one from Tennessee tastes remarkably different from one in Missouri or one in South Dakota. But you don’t know that if you turn up your nose at them all. And if you don’t know the answer, isn’t that on you? Lighten up and try something new.
It will be an education.