Southern Winegrapes

Is there potential for a winegrape industry in the Gulf Coast Region using interspecific hybrid bunch grapes?  Texas is trying to figure that out.  Fritz Westover, Viticulture Specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service (Texas A&M) has written some nice articles describing two of the most promising varieties — Blanc du Bois and Lenoir (also known as Black Spanish).  Blanc du Bois is a white grape and Lenoir is a red grape.  Both are tolerant of Pierce’s Disease, the major limiting factor in growing grapes in this region.  We have some Blanc du Bois in Stone County.  I noticed that this Spring it had some issues with Anthracnose (a fungal disease), but that can be controlled with fungicides (we are observing the vines so we are not spraying them at this time).  We have a few other varieties in the ground (some doing better than others) and plan to put some more in — including Blanc du Bois and Lenoir.

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8 responses

  1. Yes, I do believe so. I’ve been looking for a long time for others that are interested in bunch grapes in the state and this is the first time I’ve found this site. I am currently growing Blanc Du Bois, Favorite (a seedling of black spanish/Lenor and herbemont), Norton, Chambourcin and some Delaware on Black Spanish roots. I am also experimenting with v. aestavalis and v. cinerea that is growing on my property. My vines are currently in their second leaf but are doing well. Black Rot and Anthracnose have been busy, but honestly the vines have done well. All of my vine roots were also treated with mycorrhizal fungi and I do think that is a reason for their success. I do believe that I also have a presence of Pierces disease in the vineyard, but it has not affected the vines too much. I would love to talk to anyone else in the state that is interested in bunch grape growing.

    • Casey:
      I’m glad you found this site. I have met a few folks who are interested in bunch grapes, but it is difficult to tell how many are out there. Bunch grape research has been done by MSU in the past, and led to some minor successes (including variety releases), but it was not sustained. I believe even though the political environment for producing alcohol from winegrapes is somewhat difficult to navigate, there remains great opportunity for fresh market, juice and wine. One of the significant obstacles is what you mentioned — disease. Growing these types of grapes requires intensive management, something that muscadine grapes can usually be grown without. However, with the explosive growth of wineries throughout the rest of the country I believe a nascent industry exists here in MS as well. I will keep you up-to-date on any happenings I hear about, or develop, with bunch grapes. I will also start to compile a list of potential interested parties. If there is enough interest perhaps more educational events (workshops, short courses, field days, etc.) would be warranted. If you did not find it, I have another blog (okgrapes.wordpress.com) from my time in Oklahoma, dealing exclusively with winegrapes, including some of those you are growing now. Check it out, if you have not already.

      • Thanks for the response. I’d be interested in anything regarding promoting viticulture in the state. Really what set me down my path was a trip to Alabama to sample some of their wines, three years ago. I had never heard of Norton but was shocked that a quality wine was made from a bunch grape in the South. I tried vinifera, and that was an utter failure (lesson learned!), before becoming immersed in the natural hybrids and the hybrids produced by southern universities.
        What led me to this site actually was trying to find somewhere I could get some cuttings of Miss Blanc and Miss Blue. I’m collecting vines to experiment with in our climate. Next year I’m intending to add some more, probably Champanel, Lomanto, Conquistador, Herbemont (though I can’t find it anywhere), and some of the bred vines from Cliff Ambers at Chateau Z. I believe those MSU release hybrids have v. champani and herbemont in the lineage, right? I’m also out of land, just sticking whatever I can in pots anywhere around the house!
        Wild grapes grow all over my property. Why couldn’t a hybrid work in our state? Just 100 miles west of Jackson is Landry Vineyards, and they make an acceptable wine from Blanc du Bois, Lenoir and Norton. I think it’s an untapped resource. I also believe that the alcohol political environment is changing slowly. People are waking up to the health benefits that wine offers, and the passage of the higher gravity beer laws was huge towards our step. Now if I can just order online a decent wine I’d be set.

        ck

  2. I have just planted 15 vines of 2-yr old Lomanto grapes. I live 30 min south of Jackson, Ms. I put in a 2-wire high trellis system. Did not amend the soil but did mulch with pine straw.

    • Grapes can tolerate a wide range of soil pH, but prefer a slightly acidic soil. You might consider doing a soil test this year to find out what the pH is. Pine straw can be a good mulch, but also acidifies the soil. Just make sure the pH doesn’t drop too low (below 6.0).

      • Soil test makes sense. Any particular nutrient to look for [like nitrogen] that should be prevalent ? Since planting we have seen good response and new growth on all plants. We have started pruning weak branches and will be pruning soon to get to a single runner.

      • A standard soil test will look at soil pH, Phosphorous, and Potassium primarily. Grapes do not need a tremendous amount of Nitrogen, but some is good. You may not need to apply any or very much the first year unless growth is unthrifty. After that you can add something like 13-13-13 annually at budbreak (start with 1 oz per plant). If soil pH is too low you may need to add lime to get it into range. Indicate the crop it is for on the soil test and the recommendation will come back specifically for grapes. If you have more questions you can email me. My contact info is here: http://pss.msstate.edu/faculty/associate.asp?id=141

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