Saturday, June 18, 2016

Norton, Part 2

Norton and Cynthiana are identical cultivars, grapevine varieties cultivated for a purpose.  Whether Dr. Norton or some other wine loving adventurer created the type is a moot question at this point.  What is known is that it is a cross of vitis aestivalis with vitis labrusca and then with vitis vinifera vines.  More to the point - Norton is the only non-vinifera grape type that displays the vinifera finesse in flavor profile without new world foxiness.

Norton makes a red wine that is deep in color, rich in body and texture, and characterized by supple spicy/brambly fruit.  Comparisons with Zinfandel abound including coffee, chocolate, and big dark fruity flavors.  Structure is different, however.  Norton has that asset over Zinfandel along with better acidity which means the wine has the potential to age well.

But there's more...Norton grapes are a dark purple in color and contain a high anthocyanin content.  Anthocyanins are the family of compounds called polyphenols which aid the vines in fending off diseases like the fungal problems of the south.  These same qualities translate into health benefits for wine lovers as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, antimicrobials, and anti-carcinogenics.

So where has Norton been for the last hundred years?  In short, it disappeared for most of it.  Liquor and beer are more profitable for this industry than wine.  When Prohibition ended, the alcoholic beverage industry was slow to develop a wine culture in America.  Moreover, during Prohibition, wine grapes were replaced by Concords and others for juices, jams and jellies.  It was only fifty years after the fact that Norton was remembered and then revived.

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