What is a “hybrid” grape?

Everyone is driving hybrid cards, eating hybrid fruits, but you don’t see many people drinking wine from hybrid grapes.

What is a hybrid grape, anyway? First, let’s define a crossing, because hybrid is often confused with crossing.

A crossing is an offspring of two grape varieties from the same species (usually vitis vinifera). As an example, Pinotage is an a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, both from the vitis vinifera species of grape. A hybrid differs because it is the result of two different species; for example, vitis vinifera (the most common species of wine grape) reproduces with vitis labrusca (a native American species of grape). That makes a hybrid.

Most hybrids are man-made experiments, often to create a grape with benefits from both species. This was popular when it was realized that rootstock from Native American vine species showed resistance to phylloxera, while vitis vinifera (the European species) had no defenses. Since American vine species had undesirable wine results, most hybrids just weren’t very good, and grafting rootstocks became the answer. But some hybrids survived! And some aren’t half bad…

Some examples of hybrid grapes include:
Seyval Blanc: a North American hybrid that thrives in colder climates and has a tangy acidity and mineral note. It is common in Canada and New York state.
Baco Noir: A cross of a French wine grape, Folle Blance (which is of the Vitis vinifera species) and a native variety of Vitis riparia (a native North American grape)
Vidal Blanc: An offspring of Ugni Blanc, a vitis vinifera variety, and Rayon d’or. Resistant to cold weather, Vidal is often used in Canada to make delicious ice wine.

 

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