It was great to see coverage in the New York Times on how cold hardy grape varietals are anchoring the wine industry in parts of New York. The Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes region, and the North Fork of Long Island all have wineries that are thriving by using cold hardy varietals that can withstand extreme winter temperatures.
Cold hardy varietals have always been controversial. In France, where they were first developed by dedicated viticulturalists such as Ravat and Seyval, cold climate hybrids were outlawed soon after the turn of the 20th century because they were thought to produce wine that was inferior to noble (vinifera) varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet.
Fortunately, these cold hardy varietals found their way to the New World and in areas where winter temperatures can harm root stock, they form the base of a robust wine industry that services local customers who appreciate the unique characteristics and aroma profiles of these cold hardy varietals.
As a hobby wine maker, I really enjoy working with Vignoles (Ravat 51) which is a hybrid of Riesling and Marechal Foch (a red grape developed by Kuhlmann) which makes a light red that is much like Gamay Beaujouleai. These are easy sipping wines, with tropical aromas, and bright with acidity. Perfect for pairing with all sorts of dishes.
In recent years, Cornell University and the University of Minnesota have been the thought leaders for new grape varietals that are both cold hardy and can make good wine. In the future, look for Marquette (red) and Frontenac Gris (white) as wines that will gradually find acceptance with consumers as they become familiar with the unique characteristics of these wine grapes.