Heritage Wines of the Hudson Valley
Despite their long history, your local wine shop is not selling wines made from the old cultivars of New England and New York.
by Jim Meyers
American viticulture and wine culture is rooted in the 19th century northeast. New York, in particular,
produced the first commercial wines in the United States at a time when several grape breeding
programs were active in the Hudson Valley. Despite this history, your local wine shop is not selling wines
made from the old cultivars of New England and New York. Today, most of the products found in the
wine shop are made from traditional European cultivars (e.g. Cabernet Franc and Riesling is readily
found on shelves), even when grown and produced in New York.
Having said that, there are plenty of wines grown and made in New York using non-traditional European
cultivars, but it is unlikely that you will find them in a local wine shop, as they are mostly sold directly by
their producers. Patrons of New York winery tasting rooms are familiar with French-American hybrid
cultivars such as Baco Noir, Noiret, or Traminette. Those living in the northern parts of the state are
certainly familiar with Marquette and La Crescent.
The collective effort to produce wine everywhere in New York has led each region to adopt the cultivars
that work best for them. In simple terms, most growers want to make wines that resemble European
wines. To that end, New York vineyards that are capable of growing European cultivars typically do that,
but outside of Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley most vineyards are too cold for European
cultivars. Thus, they grow the familiar cold hardy varieties that are found in tasting rooms across the
state. These cultivar selections are also influenced by the fact that susceptibility of European cultivars to
American native pathogens complicates viticulture…