If you've spent more than 60 seconds in a winery or wine shop, you're probably familiar with many of the grape varieties of international renown: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc. But what about the more obscure vinifera, or the vast collection of hybrid grapes? MBTB's Grape Glossary checks in with Michigan winemakers to get the scoop on grapes you might encounter around the state that you've never heard of — until now!
Today, we check in with Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery's winemaker Jay Briggs to chat about Frontenac Gris.
Can you tell us a little bit about Frontenac Gris?
Briggs: "Frontenac Gris is a bud mutation of the cold hardy hybrid Frontenac. The vines are very prolific and have a high yielding tendency. It ripens mid to late in the season. At harvest, the berries are a reddish color and the resulting juice is bright pink leaving the finished wine with a beautiful amber/peach hue."
How does Frontenac Gris differ from traditional Frontenac?
Briggs: "The Gris version of Frontenac differs from it's red counterpart in color and flavor. They both exhibit the same growth habits and ripening periods as well as versatility. Each of them can be made into a variety of different wines."
What made this grape appealing to Forty-Five North?
Briggs: "It was appealing to Forty-Five because of it's high-yielding potential and overall vigor. The original plantings here were ravished by cold and Frontenac Gris can fill the trellis and bear usable fruit in relatively short time."
How much Frontenac Gris does Forty-Five North have in its vineyards?
Briggs: "Forty-Five North has a couple acres of Frontenac Gris planted. They were planted in 2010."
How would you describe the flavor profile of Frontenac Gris?
Briggs: "Frontenac Gris has a beautiful strawberry and tropical fruit character. I am excited for this variety to show me more of what it has to offer, and if 2013 was the beginning, we are in for some lovely surprises."
Forty-Five North is currently using Frontenac Gris as a component in a new sparkling wine. What can you tell us about the bubbly?
Briggs: "It's a blend of Frontenac Gris and La Crescent. We are working on a fun name for it. It is still a couple weeks out for release."
What are the plans for using Frontenac Gris in the future?
Briggs: "Future plans for Frontenac Gris include ... EVERYTHING! I will run small-batch experiments with it for years. When I find something I like, no doubt I will think of something else I might like better. I see no harm in pushing it to the limits of wine styles and letting it find where it fits in best for that vintage."
Have you had Frontenac Gris? Come chat with us about it on Facebook — and let us know which other grapes you'd like to learn about!