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

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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

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