Exploring the Most Popular Grape Varieties Grown in New Jersey

New Jersey is a great place for wine lovers, with its unique climate and terroir making it ideal for growing a variety of grape varieties. Major French-American hybrids that thrive in the state include Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles, among others. La Traminette is a white grape that is a cross between a French-American hybrid and a German variety (Gewurtraminer). It's a unique and refreshing white, with a touch of spice and often a touch of sweetness.

Popular producers of this variety include Working Dog Winery, Amalthea Cellars, Autumn Lake Winery and Bellview Winery. Marechal Foch is an interesting French red grape, named after the French marshal Ferdinand Foch (who helped negotiate the terms of the armistice at the end of the First World War). Notable producers of this variety include Working Dog Winery and Sky Acres Winery. Cayuga White is a white grape that ripens mid-season. It was developed at Cornell University and is a cross between Schuyler and Seyval Blanc (both hybrids).

Ventimiglia Vineyard makes a completely dry version of this wine that I really liked, as does Bellview Winery. Iron Plow Vineyards produces a unique version of this wine that creatively uses Cascade hops (used in beer) to give Cayuga a dry finish. New Jersey grows 83 different grape varieties, and wine grapes account for 70% of all plantations. It is an ideal red wine grape for New Jersey because of its resistance to diseases (which, since summers are often humid in New Jersey, could be a problem) and also because of its exceptional resistance to colder climates, helping to protect it from sudden frosts in late spring. In terms of weather conditions, New Jersey's vineyards have a relatively short growing season (from May to the end of September), making it difficult for certain red wine varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, to mature properly on a consistent annual basis. The New Jersey Agricultural Vineyard Act of 1981 made it possible for New Jersey farms with at least three acres of grapes planted to produce and sell wine.

If you ask five different New Jersey winemakers to name the state's signature grape variety, you'll get six different answers. And while the state consumes a whopping 33 million gallons of wine a year, less than 3% of that wine is made from New Jersey grapes. Two other excellent grape varieties for white wine in New Jersey viticulture are Vidal and Trambinet, which you'll even find in Finger Lakes, a region famous for exploring the delicious expressions of East Coast wines. I hope that winegrowers, wine consumers and winemakers will take the lessons in this book very seriously. While the distinctive wine identity of New Jersey is still in the making, I would like to offer two ideas to the community of wineries and grape producers that are currently shaping the state's wine industry. The ideal grape varieties for New Jersey wineries depend largely on the climate and terroir that characterize New Jersey's wine region.

However, many New Jersey farms have moved from growing vegetables to growing grapes due in part to pressure from other domestic and international vegetable markets, and because growing grapes and producing wine can potentially be more profitable than growing vegetables. Therefore, varieties such as Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, which require cooler and less humid nights, are difficult to grow in New Jersey vineyards. Every year, Co-Op member wineries collect 2.5 tons of their Chardonnay and Cabernet grapes and create individual wine expressions as part of a “community-grown and individually fermented” wine experiment to promote fine winemaking in the state. Its tannins and acids combine to form new substances that make it taste like wine instead of just grape juice with a concentration of sulfites, Sciarappa says. New Jersey wine is still in its infancy, and it's unfair to compare New Jersey wine to wine from regions of the world that have been growing wine grapes for more than 100 years.