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The red grape variety originates from the USA. Synonyms are Arkansas, Cynthiana as second main name (especially in the state of Arkansas), Norton's Seedling, Norton's Virginia Seedling, Norton Virginia, Red River, Virginia, Virginia Seedling and Vitis Nortoni. Along with Catawba, Concord and Scuppernong, the hybrid is one of the most historically important American vines. It was named after Dr. Daniel Norborne Norton (1794-1842), a physician and horticulturist from Richmond, Virginia, who discovered, selected and propagated it around 1820. At that time, it was suspected to be a cross between varieties of the species Vitis labrusca x Vitis vinifera. Since there were Miller's Burgundy vines (Müllerrebe = Pinot Meunier) near the place of discovery, this was assumed to be the parent for the time being. A similar vine called Cynthiana appeared much later only towards the end of the 19th century. For a long time, it was considered to be independent, until finally in the early 1990ies, Cynthiana and Norton were found to be identical. DNA analysis in 2009 then determined the true parentage to be Vitis aestivalis x Vitis vinifera, although the European variety was not Pinot Meunier, but possibly a seedling of Enfariné Noir. Norton was a crossing partner of the new varieties Albania, Cabernet Diane, Cabernet Doré, Hopkins, Crimson Cabernet, Gold Coin, Kentucky, Norton White, and Zinthiana.

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