If you are planning a trip to the beach, consider stopping by one of the coastal wineries along the way for a truly North Carolina wine experience.
In the sandy soils and hot humid climate closer to the coast, native scuppernong grapes, the state’s official fruit, thrive.
There are many species of grapes. The muscadine species, including scuppernong (vitis rotundifolia), is different from the species vitis vinifera, which includes grape varieties like chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
The wines made from these grape families taste different, too. Wines made from scuppernong grapes have a potent, rich, intensely grapey flavor and are typically produced in a style that may range from just a hint to very sweet. Popular cultivars are Carlos, Magnolia, Sterling, Nesbitt and Noble.
You’ll only find these grapes in the coastal South. They are so hardy they require only a fraction of the sprays and treatments needed to keep the vinifera grapes grown in the western part of the state healthy and productive.
Scuppernong grapes also contain very high levels of the compound resveratrol, an antioxidant getting lots of attention from researchers studying its health benefits. In fact, a fledgling “nutraceutical” industry is growing around the scuppernong grape, using not only the juice, but the skins and seeds as well.
Folks who like sweet wines will love these styles, as well as how approachable and affordable the wines are. Not a sweet wine fan? They make a fun spritzer mixed with seltzer or soda, or a yummy sorbet. I like to make a scuppernong reduction and use it as a delicious glaze for grilled chicken or pork chops. The wines also are a great base for the hot summer trend, homemade wine-sicles.
Visiting is easy. Check out www.visitnc.com to find details (click on Local Flavors), including a downloadable map of the wineries.
Catherine Rabb is co-owner of Fenwick’s on Providence and a senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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