The state of Georgia has a long history of growing grapes and making wine. In fact, grapes and wine were first introduced by General Oglethorpe in the early years of the state’s beginnings. The success of Georgia wines is a result of the climate and soil, as well as an understanding of what types of grapes do best in Georgia.
For those familiar with Georgia’s legendary red clay and hot summers, it might seem strange to think of growing grapes successfully in our beautiful state. However, these very features make it perfect. It turns out that the red clay we have can be compared to that which can be found in the Piedmont wine region of Italy, which is the home of some of the most expensive Italian red wines. Our red clay retains water well, and when combined with our sandy soil makes the perfect place to plant grapes.
As for the temperatures, though often quite warm, it is perfect for cultivating the grapes and producing beautiful, luscious fruit, perfect for creating delightfully tasting wine. Consequently, more than 400 acres and over 40 wineries comprise the Georgia wine scene.
While there are some states where multiple varieties of grapes will be successful, the most common wine grapes in Georgia are those in the muscadine family. These include bunch grapes like the Lenoir or black Spanish grapes, Blanc du Bois, and Cynthiana (Norton), as well as varieties like the Noble muscadine, the Ison muscadine, Carlos muscadine, the Tara muscadine, the Magnolia muscadine and the Dixie red muscadine.
The muscadine is a hearty grape that is resistant to many diseases, can handle high heat and humidity, but need the mild winters of the South.
Consequently, you will typically find muscadines growing in the Southeastern region of the US, with Georgia being home to nearly 500 acres of bunch grapes growing vineyards, in backyards and even growing wild along the Southern Blue Ridge as well as the Southern Piedmont which includes counties west and south of Atlanta up through Alabama and Virginia.
· The Noble – This is the most commonly grown grape in the Southeastern US. It is a mild flavored grape, but produces a pure red color similar to that of Merlot or Cabernet.
· Ison Muscadine - This is a fairly new variety to the wine industry, but has rapidly become a favorite. It is not as bold in color, but has a rich flavor that is often combined with milder flavored Noble.
· Carlos Muscadine – This is the standard in white muscadine wines as it has a light pinkish hue, and a smooth, slightly sweet flavor.
· Tara Muscadine – Tara muscadines are known for their honey gold color, combined with a strong smell of muscadines. They are often used in white wine blends to produce an impressive wine.
· Magnolia Muscadine – Along with the Carlos, this is one of the most widely cultivated muscadine in the South. It is traditionally used for white wines, as it contains only 15% sugar.
· Dixie Red –This grape will produce a rich red wine perfect for any occasion. These vines produce many grapes, and have 17% sugar.
· The Norton – These bunch grapes are typically black in color and are used to create wines such as merlot and cabernet.
· Black Spanish – Though the juice from these grapes can be used as a stand-alone for a very dry wine, it is better known as a blending grape.
· Blanc du Bois – This grape is known for being used to create a spicy fruity white wine similar to those produced in Europe.
Enjoying Georgia wines is not only delicious, but a great way to invest in your state. The team here at Bear Claw Vineyards looks forward to serving you our wines and can’t wait for you to come see the vineyards and stay in the Blue Ridge Tree House. Our white wines will be ready in 2017, and red wines in 2018. Come for a visit- Cheers!