Although most grapes flourish in a cool, dry climate, muscadines love to be where it’s hot and humid. Sound like someplace you know?
According to the Vintner Project, muscadine grapes are found throughout the South. “In fact, it is the only grape variety that can actually grow in this climate,” it wrote on its website. “However, the grape is quite adaptable — it is found as far north as Delaware, which is much cooler; and as far west as Texas, which is significantly drier.”
Produced America’s first wine
According to both Eater and the Vintner Project, the first wine made in what is now the United States was from muscadine grapes.
“When Spanish and French explorers settled America, it was literally overrun with another type of vine, which came to be known as Vitis rotundifolia, or Muscadine,” the Vintner Project wrote. “Needing wine to deal with the hardships of living in a new world, and also for carrying out religious ceremonies, Muscadine was cultivated for wine production as early as the mid 1500s in Florida.”
According to Eater, it was French Huguenots in Jacksonville, Florida, who made America’s first wine in 1562, using the Scuppernong variety of muscadine.
Highest polyphenol content
Polyphenols are reducing agents, and, together with antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids, protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress and associated pathologies such as cancers, coronary heart disease and inflammation.
Polyphenols are found in the grape’s skin and in significantly higher amounts in its seeds.
Resistant to pests and disease
Although Vitis vinifera grapevines can fall prey to a tiny insect that feeds off the plant and introduces fatal fungal infections, the muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) has adapted to produce a sticky residue that not only protects it from most environmental microbes, but also acts as a natural repellent to pests.
There are hundreds of varieties
There are more than 300 strains of muscadine that have been either cultivated or bred for commercial use, and many of those come from the University of Georgia.
The University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has a muscadine grape team, led by horticulture professor Patrick J. Conner. In May, the team announce a new red variety of muscadine called RubyCrisp.
“The unusual red color of this berry really makes it stand out,” Conner told CAES News. “But the tender skin and crisp flesh of this variety are what truly make it unique. The texture of this variety is a marked change from traditional muscadines, which are often known for having tough skins and a soft pulp.”
Although the RubyCrisp is not a good berry for commercial production — it often cracks with rough handling — its vines can flourish in the backyards of at-home cultivators.