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Finger Lakes Wine Grape Varieties

There are many grape varieties grown in the Finger Lakes and used in the production of wine. Here is a list of most of the varieties used for making Finger Lakes wine.

European VarietiesNative American VarietiesHybrid Varieties


European Varieties (Vinifera)

In general, the European varieties of wine grapes (vitis Vinifera) are considered to be the base of some of the best wines. In many cases they are more susceptible to cold weather damage but in other cases (such as Riesling) they are ideally suited to the Finger Lakes growing season. These are typically created to be quite dry or semi-dry wines.

Cabernet Franc (Cah-bear-NAY Fronk)
Aromatic and lighter in color, body and tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit tends to ripen in a cooler climate. Produces light to medium bodied wines with forward fruit.

Cabernet Sauvignon (Cah-bear-NAY so-veen YONH) Black cherry, current. Rich, medium to full bodied and high in tannins. Ages very well

Gamay (Gah-MAY) Light bodied with fresh fruity cranberry flavors; tangy. Often produces wine that is meant to be drunk young (Beaujolais Nouveau)

Lemberger (Lehm-ber-ger) produces light-bodied smooth wine that is meant to be drunk young.

Merlot ( Mare-LOW) Medium-bodied, dry and smooth with more fruit flavors and less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pinot Noir (PEA-no Nwhar) Light to medium bodied; flavors of cherry, clove-spice, smoke hints. Less tannins and pigment than Cabernets

Chardonnay (Shar-doh-NAY) Buttery, creamy, apple, lemon and pineapple; medium-dry, full-bodied. Vanilla, butterscotch and smoke hints if oak-aged. One of the few white wines that can be aged for a couple decades.

Gewürztraminer (Guh-VERTZ-trah-meen-er) German for "spiced." Crisp and spicy flavors of cloves and nutmeg with fragrant floral nose. Varies in sweetness from dry to semi-sweet. Typically produced with a higher alcohol content than most whites.

Riesling (REEZ-ling) One of the premier grapes grown in the Finger Lakes. Steely with fruity flavors of peaches, honey and tropical fruit. A flowery bouquet and a long finish, light to medium-bodied. Produced in a wide range of sweetness. Also very popular for making ice wines also called late harvest wines. Ages better than any other white.



Native American Varieties (Lambrusca)

The native American varieties (vitis Lambrusca) are hardier and better adapted to the NY climate but in most cases their grapey or foxy flavor makes them better suited to grape juice. Several do quite well when mixed with other varieties in the production of wine or champagne (sparkling wine).

Catawba (Cat-awe-bah) both high in sugar and acid it can be made to balance well. Typically produced sweet and often as a rosé. Clean taste with a spicy aroma.

Concord (Kon-chord) One of the most widely grown in NY. Typically too grapey for wine making. Used abundantly in juice and jelly making.

Isabella (Is-ahh-bell-ah) A red grape with grapey flavor with a musky aroma. Flavors too strong to make as a red wine, so it is occasionally pressed to produce a white, or is left on the skin briefly to produce a rosé. Usually used as a blend.

Vincent (Vihn-sent) Typically produces a dark red wine with velvety character.

Delaware (Dell-A-ware) High sugar with a grapey flavor and aroma. Often finished semi-sweet. Frequently used for blends in champagne.

Diamond (Di-ah-mond) typically makes a wine with lots of fruit flavor.


Niagara (Nigh-agg-ara) Noticeably grapey flavor and aroma. Usually finished semi-sweet to sweet. Often described as grapes in a glass.



French-American Hybrid Varieties

The French-American hybrids offer some interesting combinations of wines that are less grapey than the native American varieties but tend to be a little more hardy for the climate in the Finger Lakes.

Baco Noir (Bah-ko Nwhar) medium to full bodied and fairly acidic. Typically smokey with hints of black-pepper. Deep color. Benefits from aging

Chambourcin (Sham-bor-sin) Rich in color and medium-bodied Similar to Cabernet Franc only with less aroma.

Chancellor (Chan-sell-or) Deep in color and well balanced. Used primarily for blending.

DeChaunac (Deh-Shaw-nack) Medium-bodied with hints of pepper. Has remarkably different flavors when warmed as compared to room temperature.

Maréchal Foch (Mare-shall Foe-sh) Deep pigmented. Fruity nose. Velvety. Flavorful yet simple.

Rougeon (Roo-geon) Deeply pigmented and often used in blends for its color and smooth flavor. Heavy fruit.

Cayuga White (Kay-you-guh) This grape was developed in the Finger Lakes. Fruity flavor with delicate aroma. Medium-body and well balanced. Often produced sweet.

Melody (Mell-oh-dee) Another grape developed in the Finger Lakes. Fruity flavor with flowery aroma (much more subtle than a Gewürztraminer).

Seyval Blanc (Say-vall BLONK) Usually produced with just a touch of sweetness. Excellent sugar-acid balance. Crisp, Light to medium body with hints of apple, melon and citrus.

Vidal Blanc (Vee-Dahl BLONK) High in acid so it is usually finished semi-dry to cover it. Similar in character to a Riesling. Sometimes used to produce late harvest and ice wines.

Vignoles (Vig-noles) or Ravat 51 (Rahh-vat) Typically produces a clean crisp wine. Well balanced. Used for sparkling wines and ice wines.

Traminette (Trah-min-ett) A hybrid of the Gewürztraminer with similar characteristics but more winter hardy. Known for its spicy character and fragrant floral aroma.


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