New York is most famous for Riesling, but expect to be impressed with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Let's see the list of wines made in New York.
New York has been producing wine for over 300 years, but only in the last 60 years has it stepped onto the world stage. Why? Vitis vinifera.
Vitis vinifera is the scientific name for the species that encompasses all the grape varieties you know and love, such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, etc.
However, New York’s climate and prevalence of vineyard diseases, such as phylloxera, meant it was nearly impossible to cultivate this vine species until the 1960s.
By luck, a crossing of the European vine (Vitis vinifera) with a native vine (Vitis labrusca) led to a hybrid type of vine. These vines have the concentration and intensity of flavor that European grapevines are known for, with the disease and cold resistance of the native vines.
These make up 10% of the total plantings in New York and some varieties from this group are Vidal, Baco Noir, and Seyval Blanc.
Riesling is the flagship variety of New York, thanks to its winter hardy nature and its ability to produce exquisite, age-worthy wines that range from bone-dry to lusciously sweet.
Riesling's ability to hang on the vine gives winemakers a range of choices in flavors, like lemon zest, lime, apricot, pineapple, and even honey. If they wait long enough and the conditions are right, you can even find Ice Wine here. You'll mostly find Riesling in the Finger Lakes.
Riesling's high levels of racy and tangy acidity also allow this noble variety to age for decades, producing petrol and kerosene aromas, which are sought after by many a wine geek.
California is famous for bold, buttery Chardonnay, New York is the exact opposite - lean, mineral, and lithe styles.
Expect zesty, citrus fruit and green apple flavors that are occasionally supported with subtle nuttiness from oak aging. Keep your eyes peeled for sparkling wines with Chardonnay akin to Champagne.
On the spectrum of Cabernet Franc, New York sits between two worlds. It has a rich ripeness of fruit expressed with ripe cherry and raspberry flavors. However, it also has savory notes of pepper and earth with vibrant acidity and firm tannins.
With a mixture of ripe strawberry and raspberry aromas and a subtle menthol and savory flavor, Merlot makes its home mostly on Long Island, which has the warmest growing conditions of the state.
Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, look out for the word "Meritage" (pronounced like "heritage") on the label to find this type of blend.
New York Wine Facts
- The most planted wine grape (Vitis vinifera species) is Riesling (about 1000 acres or 405 ha).
- The second most planted wine grape is Chardonnay (850 acres or 344 ha).
- Merlot is the third most planted wine variety at 800 acres (324 ha).
- Cabernet Franc is the fourth most planted wine variety at 500 acres (202 ha).
- New York also specializes in cold climate wine varieties (non-vitis vinifera) which make up 10% of the total vineyard area.