Getting to Know Niagara, The Grape

Paul Bulas

For a grape with such an unassumingly pale green colour as Niagara, there is an awesome amount of aromatic power.

Niagara is a cross between the Concord and Cassady varieties. I've also seen it referred to as "the white Concord", though not particularly often. I suppose that the reasons for this aren't hard to understand: Niagara is one of the "foxiest" of the labrusca grapes, and it does share aromas similar to those of Concord. However, if one really focuses on the aromas and looks for nuances, it is possible to find some distinctly different notes amid the immediate foxy chaos.

As the grapes begin to ripen and the methyl anthranilate begins to be noticeable, they initially give off sharp whiffs of mint, acacia blossoms and/or acacia honey. When the grapes are fully ripe, they exude much heavier and more intense aromas of freshly laid asphalt, diesel oil, citrus skin, candies and honey. Get them riper still -- as in a very warm vintage -- and an almost palpable oiliness becomes evident on the nose.

Discussions on specific aromas such as this one are usually limited to wines rather than actual grapes, but with labrusca grapes, I'm convinced that the intensity of the aromas in the fruit itself can quite successfully inspire its own analysis. What happens when the grapes are turned into wine is the topic of an upcoming report that I plan to share with readers in the near future!

October 2001

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