How can I be sure there are no Concord grapes in my wine?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I am partial to Merlot, but I need to be sure that Concord grapes aren't involved. Can you confirm that they aren't?

—Jean, Stanardsville, Va.

Dear Jean,

Concord grapes are native to the eastern United States, and most of the wines made from these grapes are made in a sweet style, like Manischewitz. That “grapey” flavor of Concord is why it’s used as a base for grape jelly and juice, but that “foxy” or fur-coat-like aroma that is also a signature of Concord wines might be the reason you want to avoid it.

Looking around, I see Concord grapes are also used in red wine blends, including occasionally with Merlot. Most Concord grapes are grown where they are native, like New York, Michigan and Ohio, so if you’re avoiding Concord, pay extra attention to wines from those areas. There is very little Concord grown in California—less than 100 acres of vineyards—so you’d be pretty safe assuming a California Merlot is Concord-free.

Keep in mind that labeling laws in the U.S. require that a minimum of 75% of a wine has to be made from the grape listed on the front label. So if you see a bottle that’s labeled “Merlot,” that means it is at least 75% from Merlot grapes. Could the other 25% include other grapes, like Concord? Possibly. Look for wines that say they are 100% Merlot, or that list the grapes—check the back label or the wine’s website; most will list such details.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Merlot

More In Dr. Vinny

What do wine grapes taste like?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why you don't see grapes like Cabernet and …

Nov 15, 2019

At a restaurant, if I want to order a wine that needs time to breathe, what should I do?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for ordering wines at a restaurant that …

Nov 13, 2019

Is there any risk to a wine’s quality, or the health of people drinking it, if the winemaker adds too much yeast or nutrients for the fermentation?

Wine Spectator 's expert Dr. Vinny explains why there are limits to how much yeast …

Nov 11, 2019

What causes the blue tinge when I clean red wine out of my wineglass?

Wine Spectator 's expert Dr. Vinny explains why anthocyanins, which give red wine its …

Nov 8, 2019

Why are wines made from winemaking kits ready to drink so much sooner than commercially made wines?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why commercially made wines can take years to …

Nov 6, 2019

If a wine is aged in 55 percent new French oak, what is the other 45 percent?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how "new" and "used" oak barrels influence wines …

Nov 4, 2019




Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search