Mid spring view of vineyard grape canopy from Southern Illinois

It’s IL Wine Month! (Part 2)

As we continue to celebrate IL Wine Month here at Cameron Hughes, we are going to brush over some of the more off the beaten path red wines you’ll find in the state’s wine programs.

Earlier this month we covered the odd whites from the state, you can find that here if you missed it!

As with most all states in the US, the standard European Grapes have found a home here, we’re just really interested in looking at the lesser-known varieties (outside of the locals of course – this is nothing new to them).  So, yes, we could wax on about IL Cabernet Franc, but why bother when learning about Marechal Foch or Noiret seems like so much more fun!  And with that, here we go…

Chambourcin – Created at some point in the 1860s and with unknown parentage, growths really didn’t establish around the US until the early 1960s when the grape was more widely available.  The wine it produces is generally lower in tannin and acidity and very intense with flavors of dried fruits, cherries, berries, and hints of tobacco leaf.  Some expressions are best served chilled due to the flavor intensity this grape shows.

Concord – The good old table grape and favorite of peanut butter & jelly connoisseurs, Concord grapes make for a “foxy” wine – named as such for the musky funk and intense grapey flavor that they showcase.  While an acquired taste for some, there are a number of folks who appreciate the “fox grapes” for this quality, and seek out Concord-based wines.

Frontenac – Showing up on the winemaking scene in 1996, this grape is a hybrid mixture created by the University of Minnesota.  The wine produced is defined by its characteristic cherry aroma with hints of mint, cedar spice, and anise when aged in oak.  Generally a lower tannin wine, it has brilliant acidity.  Rumor has it a white version of the grape was released last decade, but as it goes with grapes, it’ll be a few years until we see what those vines produce, more on Frontenac Blanc in the near future…

Marechal Foch – One of the few in this series that was actually hybrid in Europe.  Alsace to be specific, at the beginning of the 20th century.  Known to have a distinctive berry-like nose, the wine is low in tannin and high in acidity.  Even though this was a French grape, once cultivated in the Loire, its hybrid nature had it kicked out of Europe and it has since found a home in North America.

Marquette – A hybrid of hybrids created at the university of Minnesota, that when aged in oak, offers complex earth and spice notes to backup the berry aromas from the grape itself.  The darker, thicker skin makes for more moderate tannins in this wine.

Noiret – Developed at Cornell University, this is a hybrid of hybrids on a mission to shake the “hybrid flavors” stigma.  A mid-season ripener, the wine produced from this grape has rich color, a nose of raspberry and mint with hints of pepper corns and pyrazines, all wrapped in a good tannic structure.

Norton – While the official grape of Missouri wine makers, and one of the newest grapes to be experimented with in CA plantings, IL has a home for this hybrid grape that showcases cigar box aromatics with berry and spice riding crisp acidity.  In a time long past, 1873 to be exact, a Norton wine won a gold medal at the Vienna World Exposition.  So don’t count this guy out of your cellar quite yet, word in the industry is it may be making a comeback soon….

So, again, Happy Illinois Wine Month!  Due to the current state of affairs, more and more wineries are taking to the internet to sell their wares, so do yourself a favor and seek out some IL wines that are most likely more readily available of late (we hope) online. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *