New York Wine County is located in the northeast of the United States and has 373 wineries that all do their best to make tasty and internationally marketable wines. The winemakers traditionally call their wines ‘with a new world attitude’.
The name of the area refers of course to the state but few people know that it once started in what is now the city of New York. Sometime around the year 1650 Dutch Settlers, and later the Huguenots, imported vitis vinifera vines from Europe that were planted in what is now Manhattan. The vines did not survive but were the reason for planting vineyards elsewhere in the state. Eventually it was understood that grafting European varieties onto American rootstocks was the solution and so unique varieties were created that are the basis of viticulture today.
Sometime in the 1800’s real wineries were created. Brotherhood Wines is the oldest winery still active today, started in 1839, from the Hudson River region. In the 1960s and 1970s wine became popular and many wineries started. The big breakthrough came in 1976 when the Farm Winery Act made it economically more attractive to start growing wine. In the mid 1980’s, 2 immigrants from Europe, Dr. Konstantin Frank and Charles Fournier, were great pioneers of European grape varieties. Most wineries today are still small family businesses.
New York vineyards are located at the same latitude as the European wine regions of Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux and Rheingau. There are 5 main areas that are officially recognized as American Viticultural Area (AVA): Niagara Escarpment, Lake Erie Region, Finger Lakes Region, Hudson River Region and Long Island Region. The Finger Lakes and Long Island AGMs each still have 2 sub-AVAs, making a total of 9 official areas of origin. For Finger Lakes these are Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. For Long Island it is about North Fork and The Hamptons. Each of these AGMs has its own microclimate. Wines that do not come from an AVA are labelled with ‘New York State’ if at least 75% of the grapes also come from it.
Generally speaking, New York is a ‘cool climate’ wine region. In summer, the rivers and lakes, as well as the proximity of the ocean, cool down the area. And in the winter, they moderate the extremely low temperatures. About 35 different grape varieties are cultivated in the 800 km long wine region. Wines that mention the grape variety on the label must be made for 75% with that variety. Blue varieties include baco noir, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chancellor, concord, lemberger, frontenac, merlot and petit verdot. In white we find e.g. chardonnay, cayuga white, diamond, frontenac gris, gewürztraminer, la crescent, seyval blanc, pinot gris, vidal blanc, vignoles and niagara. Every year about 170,000T of grapes are harvested. A quarter is used to make wine, the rest for fruit juice and a small part is sold as table grapes.
This area is best known for its red wines. The soils usually contain a lot of sand and there you can find fans of the classic Bordeaux blends that are called ‘Meritage’.
One of the oldest wine regions of America located on hills east of the Hudson River and plains west of it. Here, mainly white grape varieties are planted.
Four lakes surround this AVA. Of these, 2 lakes have given their name to a separate AVA because of their unique microclimate. It is an area where many types of wine are made from both American and European varieties but also sparkling wines and ice wine are among the favorites.
Most of the grapes harvested here go to the production of grape juice. Approximately 95% is made with the concord grape variety. Some twenty wineries also make wines in this area.
This is the warmest AVA due to its proximity to the large lakes and the slope that retains warm air from Lake Ontario. The limestone of the slope and the pebbles closer to the banks of the lakes provide the ideal soil for many grape varieties. Many different wines and wine styles are produced here, from both European and American varieties.
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