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Scuppernong

The white grape variety comes from the USA. Synonyms are American Muscadine, Big White Grape, Bull, Bullace, Bullet, Bullet Grape, Green Muscadine, Green Scuppernong, Hickman's Grape, Pedee, Roanoke, White Muscadine, White Scuppernong and Yellow Muscadine. It is an all-female grape variety and one of the few of the subgenus Muscadinia species Vitis rotundifolia. Along with Alexander, Catawba, Concord, Niagara and Norton, it is one of the most important historical varieties in the USA. It was one of the first American vines from which wine was made in North America. Erroneously, all Muscadinia vines are often called Scuppernong. Presumably it is a direct descendant of wild vines. The large, spherical berries are white-green to bronze in colour, so that a mutation of the dark berried Vitis rotundifolia is assumed.

Scuppernong - Weintraube

The vines were discovered and selected by English and German settlers in North Carolina on the banks of the Scuppernong River in the 1660s and wine was made from them for the first time. The name is derived from "ascupernation", which in the Indian Algonquin language means "place where ascopo grows" (bay tree). The vine may have been first mentioned much earlier by the Italian navigator and explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (1485-1528), when he explored the valley of the Cape Fear River (in central eastern North Carolina) in French service and found many "naturally growing vines". However, since he does not mention any berry colour, it could have been the dark coloured wild vine.

It may also have been these wild vines when, a few decades later, the English colonists Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe (1550-1620) landed here in 1584 on behalf of Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) and found "vines climbing up the cedars" on Roanoke Island near the coast. One year later, the Governor Ralph Lane (1532-1603), who had meanwhile been appointed there, described "grapes of a size unknown in France, Spain or Italy". Incidentally, the fort, which had been built up at short notice, had to be abandoned as early as 1586 due to difficulties with the native population.

Until the beginning of the 19th century the variety was simply called "Big White Grape" or "Roanoke" after a small island near the coast where this vine also grew. It was not until 1811 that it was mentioned in the newspaper "Southern Planter" as Scuppernong. It quickly became popular and was widely distributed. The golden yellow wine is characterised by a peculiar taste, which differs significantly from European varieties. The US president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) described it patriotically in 1817 as follows: "Scuppernong wine would stand out on the best tables in Europe for its fine aroma and crystal clarity. Unfortunately, the aroma is completely buried under brandy". In those days it was common to sprinkle wine and this even before fermentation, so in this case it was an alcohol-enriched must.

From the middle of the 19th century onwards, the vine was spread in many states on the east coast and was also used for the production of grape juice and table grapes. The special wine taste was marketed in the 20th century by the Paul Garett company under the brand name "Virginia Dare". The name referred to the first child born in 1587 to English settlers on Roanoke Island, the first English settlement in North America. After Virginia's grandfather John White returned from getting provisions from England in 1590, he found no trace of the colonists, and so the trace of little Virginia was lost. The place has since been called "The Lost Colony". The 100 settlers probably met a terrible end because of the Indians. During the prohibition (1920-1933) the company produced a "Scuppernong Cider" (grape must) and after the end it was the only producer who could immediately resume wine production.

The Scuppernong variety has also been mentioned several times in American literature. For example, it was portrayed in the story "The Goophered Grapevine" by Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932), in the novel "Absalom, Absalom!" by Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner (1897-1962) and in the bestseller "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Nelle Harper Lee (*1926), and also described in a poem by Elinor Wylie (1885-1928): "The winter will be short, the summer long, The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot, Tasting of cider and of scuppernong". In 2001, the vine finally came to great acclaim, as it officially became the state fruit of North Carolina, making it one of the state's landmarks.

Legend has it that all Scuppernong vines are descended from a single mother vine called "The Mother Vine". This vine was first mentioned in the 1720s on the property of a Joseph Baum on Roanoke Island near the town of Manteo and is said to be over 400 years old. One descendant, Solomon Baum (1813-1898), said that already in his childhood the vine was the largest on the island and that his father and grandfather had known it. The shoots of the plant cover an area of 10 x 35 metres. However, it cannot be verified whether this is really the original variety and when it was created. Regardless of this, many offspring may of course have been created by vegetative propagation.

The vine is particularly resistant to Pierce disease. It produces dark golden, full-bodied white wines with a varietal flavour, which are often vinified sweet. According to analyses, they contain an unusually high proportion of antioxidants (radical scavengers) and thus have a positive, health effect. The variety was a cross-breeding partner in the new varieties Carlos and Magnolia. Today, Scuppernong is cultivated only in small quantities in the southeast and in the Gulf States. It has been replaced by varieties of better quality, is no longer officially recommended for cultivation and has only historical significance. However, a few winegrowers in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina still produce single-variety wines. In 2010, however, no stock was reported. See also under American Vines.

Picture: From Flick User Southern Foodways Alliance - flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

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