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Vitis labrusca

One of about 30 American species or wild vines with the full botanical name Vitis labrusca L.. It was already described in 1753 by the Swedish natural scientist Carl von Linné (1707-1778) in his new nomenclature (the L. in the botanical name refers to him). However, he referred to the description of the Swiss botanist Caspar Bauhin (1560-1624), which was already in 1623 as "Vitis sylvestris virginiana". This is the longest known American wild vine. Already at the beginning of the 17th century, pioneers in the USA tried unsuccessfully to make edible wine from it. Together with the two species Vitis mustangensis and Vitis shuttleworthii it forms the group Labruscae.

Vitis labrusca - Rebstock mit Isabellatrauben+

In the course of time there have been several name changes, so old sources confusingly show many different botanical names. These are for example Vitis blandii Prince, Vitis Canina Raf., Vitis catawba Hort., Vitis ferruginga Raf., Vitis labrusca var. Subeden tata Fernald, Vitis labrusca var. Typica Regel, Vitis latifolia Raf.., Vitis luteola Raf., Vitis sylvestris virginiana Bauh, Vitis taurina Walter, Vitis vinifera sylvestris americana Pluk, Vitis vinifera var. Labrusca Kuntze and Vitis vulpina Marshall. Trivial synonyms include Black Fox, Concord Grape, Fox Grape, Niagara Grape, Northern Fox Grape, Northern Muscadine, Parra Brava, Parron, Skunk Grape, Swamp Grape, Vid Silvestre, Vigne Lambruche and Vigne Cotonneuse.

The vine is found all over the eastern USA up to the Mississippi and from southern Canada to Georgia deep in the southeast. In first descriptions a trunk diameter of 30 centimeters was mentioned. It prefers sunny locations on sandy or moist clay soils. It is extremely sensitive to lime, which makes it problematic for European soils. The resistance to both mildew and frost is good, but it is somewhat susceptible to phylloxera. Therefore, as a pure species it is not suitable as a rootstock for grafting with European varieties. The berries or wine have a distinct strawberry aroma and the foxton (foxy note). This is why it is called foxgrape or strawberry vine.

Even new varieties, even with a low percentage of crossbreeding, have this more or less pronounced taste. The reason for this is the black-red anthocyanin derivative malvidin 3,5-diglucoside, which occurs exclusively in Vitis labrusca. This enables a clear identification of varieties crossed with Vitis labrusca in wine. Due to this aroma, which is a bit strong and disconcerting especially for the European taste (but which, by the way, is highly appreciated in Japan), it is hardly suitable for commercial wine production. Grape varieties with Vitis labrusca genes are therefore mainly used in the USA for the production of table grapes, sparkling wine, sweet wine, grape juice and jam (jelly, jam).

Vitis labrusca - Trauben von Concord, Delaware, Isabella, Niagara und Noah

By far the best known Labrusca variety is Concord, from which about three quarters of all American grape varieties in the eastern USA are derived. Other varieties with at least some Vitis labrusca genes include Agawam, Alden, Alexander, Allegro, Armlong, Aurora, Baco Blanc, Beauty of Minnesota, Beta, Black Defiance, Black Eagle, Blanc Du Bois, Bluebell, Bolero, Breidecker, Brianna, Brighton, Brilliant, Caberinta, Cabernet Cantor, Campbell Early, Carter, Catawba, Clinton, Concord, Conquistador, Cornucopia, Delago, Delaware, Diana, Dutchess, Elvira, Florental, Fredonia, Gill Wylie, GR 7, Hartford, Headlight, Hector, Helios, Herbert, Himrod, Iona, Isabella, Ives, Kilian Vine, Kyoho, La Crosse, Lindley, Louise Swenson, Magnolia, Marquis, Melody, Monroe, Missouri Riesling, Moore's Diamond, Muscat Bailey A, New York Muscat, Niabell, Niagara, Noah, Norton (Cynthiana), Ontario, Orlando Seedless, Othello, Pontiac, President, Principal, Ravat Blanc, Ravat Noir, Reliance, Ripatella, Romulus, Salem, Schuyler, Seneca, Sevar, St. Pepin, Steuben, Sunbelt, Veeport, Winchell, Woodruff, Yates, York-Madeira and Zilga. Further information can be found under the keywords American Vines, Hybrids and Vine System.

Isabella: Zeynel Cebeci / CC BY-SA
5 Labrusca varieties: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)

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