Native American Grape Varietals

  Botanists tell us that grapes are members of the genus Vitis, and the well-known European grape varieties are members of the species vinifera. (In case you’ve forgotten, a species is one rung lower in the botanical classification system than a genus.) When the Europeans first came to the New World, they found grapes growing in great profusion here, but these New World grapes were all members of different species than those members of the species vinifera with which they were familiar from home. Whereas botanists and taxonomists are still trying to determine exactly how many different species of grapes there were in North America at the time of its discovery, the number is in the range of 20 to 30, and one of them is the species labrusca. It would be hard to argue that Vitis labrusca is anything less than a native species of grape in North America. Among the other grape species native to North America are riparia, aestivalis, rotundifolia, and mustangensis. However, if a hybrid is formed by the union of a native species of grape with a non-native species, that hybrid’s