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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What does wine made from Concord grapes taste like?
—Sarah, Lake Stevens, Wash.
Concord grapes are native to the eastern United States, and most of the wines made from these grapes are made in an off-dry style (they taste pretty sweet). If you’ve ever tried Manischewitz, you've had a wine made from Concord grapes. These wines remind me of the flavor of grape juice, or grape soda—straightforward and appealing in their sweet and grapey profile. They are also known for having what’s called a “foxy” note, which reminds me of the smell of an old fur coat. It’s not unpleasant, just a distinctive grace note to all of that fruitiness.
The vast majority of Concord-based wines taste quite sweet, but Concord grapes actually have less sugar than most traditional wine grapes, and they can theoretically be made into a wide range of styles. Usually, winemakers chaptalize, or add sugar, to the wines to account for Concord's naturally lower Brix range.
Concord grapes are also different from many other types of wine grapes because they are known as “slip-skins.” That is, the skin is very slippery and pops off the pulp of the grape. With most wine grapes, the skins are attached to the pulp inside.
Slip-skins are more difficult to press into wine: The skins pop off the pulp and the tannins in the skins don’t get very extracted in the press. The end result is wines that don’t have a lot of tannins or structure.
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