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,
My husband has an intolerance to Concord grapes. Are there any commercial winemakers using Concord grapes, aside from those making kosher wines?
—Julie, United States
Concord’s sweet, grapey flavor is what makes it an ideal base for jelly and juice, as well as to flavor soda and candy (it can even be used as a bird deterrent). You’re right that there is some wine—and much of the best-known examples are kosher—made from Concord grapes. If you’ve never had it, Concord wines tend to have a distinct “foxy” note—it reminds me of the smell of an old fur coat.
These days, most wine is made from different types of grapes than Concord—those of the Vitis vinifera species, to be specific. Concord is Vitis Labrusca, which is native to the eastern United States, and why they became so well-known with kosher wine—as kosher populations grew on the East Coast, they made wine with what grapes were available to them, and the style stuck. But Vitis vinifera is planted all over, and includes well-known grapes like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and so forth.
How do you know if your wine is made from Concord grapes? The good news is that the labeling laws in the United States require that a minimum of 75 percent of the wine has to be made from the grape listed on the front label. If it says “Zinfandel,” it’s at least 75 percent from Zinfandel grapes. Does that mean the other 25 might possibly be from other grapes, including Concord? Possibly, and considering your husband’s sensitivity, you might want to look for wines that are 100 percent of one grape, or wines that at least list the entire blend for you. Sometimes it’s on the wine label; if not, a quick search online (or an e-mail to the producer or importer) should clear that question up.
Most Concord grapes are grown in places where they are native, like New York, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, so pay extra attention to wines from those regions. But in California, there are 500,000 acres of Vitis vinifera planted, and less than 100 acres of Concord.