The following hybrid wine grapes are the top five grown in Illinois and Missouri. This information comes courtesy of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board and the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association.
Chambourcin [MO + IL]. A French-American hybrid, Chambourcin’s parentage is unknown. The blue-black grape grows in large, loose clusters of medium-sized berries. The vine is low to moderately vigorous and is not reliably hardy in northern Missouri. Chambourcin is susceptible to several fungal diseases including powdery mildew and, to a lesser extent, downy mildew. Chambourcin ripens about the same time as Concord. It is processed as a red wine grape and is fermented on the skins. Chambourcin yields full-bodied, dry red wine that is moderately fruity, possibly with some subdued berry notes.
Chardonel [MO + IL]. A high-quality white hybrid wine grape released from the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, New York, in 1996. Chardonel is a cross of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc and is very similar in flavor to its Chardonnay parent. It is a moderately vigorous and moderately cold-hardy vine that is highly productive and requires cluster thinning to prevent overcropping and to achieve maximum quality. It has moderate- to large-sized clusters of medium-sized berries and is somewhat more rot resistant than Chardonnay. It has been found to be susceptible to the root form of grape phylloxera and may benefit from grafting to a pest-resistant rootstock.
Frontenac [IL]. Released in 1996, Frontenac is a cross of the French hybrid Landot 4511 and Vitis riparia 89, also known as the “riverbank grape.” The wine grapes are very disease resistant, cold hardy and grow in medium to large clusters. Frontenac is most often used to produce red, rosé and Port styles of wine with blackberry, black currant and plum on the palate.
Maréchal Foch [IL]. A French hybrid red wine grape variety developed in Alsace, France, Maréchal Foch’s parentage is unknown. The grape was named for the French marshal Ferdinand Foch, who helped negotiate armistice terms at the end of World War I. Maréchal Foch wine is often deep red in color with earthy, spicy and dark fruit flavors.
Traminette [MO]. A late mid-season white wine grape, Traminette was crossed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1965 and released by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1996. Traminette is a cross between Joannes Seyve 23.416 and Gewürztraminer, and produces fruit and wine quality similar to its Gewürztraminer parent. Vines are vigorous, moderately cold hardy and have a late bud burst similar to Norton and Vignoles. Traminette is moderately productive and does not require cluster thinning. It has a high percentage of Vitis vinifera in its background, and grafting to pest-resistant rootstocks is recommended to overcome potential problems with the root form of phylloxera. The wine usually has a floral aroma with fruity, somewhat spicy flavor. Traminette is currently growing in popularity in Missouri wine industry and throughout the Midwest.
Vidal Blanc [MO]. A French-American cross of the vinifera variety Ugni Blanc and another hybrid, Seibel 4986, Vidal Blanc has large clusters of medium to small berries flecked with small russet dots. The vines are moderately winter hardy and susceptible to several fungus diseases including powdery mildew and anthracnose. The clusters resist rot and can stay on the vine for a longer period of time compared to Seyval Blanc. Vidal Blanc is processed as a white wine grape and is not fermented on the skins. It produces white wine with fruity and floral notes.
Vignoles [MO + IL]. A white French-American hybrid wine grape cultivar with unknown parentage, Vignoles is widely grown on the East Coast and in the Midwest. It produces a variety of high-quality wine styles, including dry, off-dry and sweet, and is frequently used in white wine blends. Vignoles wines boast an aromatic, floral nose and excellent fruity flavors of stone fruit and citrus. The vines have good cold hardiness and a later bud opening period than most wine grape cultivars, thus making it less susceptible to late frost damage. The clusters are small and very tight and are highly susceptible to bunch rots. Vignoles is an earlier ripening cultivar harvested in late August or early September.