Pennsylvania Wines

11 Dec

I found this old paper from school. Kind of interesting, well as interesting as PA wines can be.

When wine comes up in conversation, it is rare that the wines of Pennsylvania are the first to drum up excitement. In fact, the wines of Pennsylvania rarely even make to the conversation at all. Perhaps it is that Pennsylvania is better known for Hershey’s chocolate or for the Amish country. Maybe it’s the famous history of Philadelphia and Pittsburg that fill the books and shroud the modest history of the countryside. But, Pennsylvania holds more to offer than simple Quaker roots and Yuengling beer. With a rich history of rebellion and heroes, Pennsylvania boasts a revolutionary spirit that is rivaled by few others. This spirit has not been forgotten in Pennsylvania wine making.

The history of Pennsylvania wines is spotty at best. There are few sources that are reliable, and those that are seem to mimic each other in fact and disappointment. What is consistent is the similarity Pennsylvania winemaking shares with the rest of the country. Like her sister states, Pennsylvania’s first vines were planted by immigrants who were eager to make wine like they remembered from home. The earliest vineyard in documentation was planted by William Penn in 1683. He planted the vines in Philadelphia in an area know today as Fairmount Park. It is not known what type of grapes were planted, however it is known that they were European vines. Similar to the other vineyards of the time, William Penn’s vineyard struggled. The European vines did not flourish in the new American soil. The growing of the vines was not the only problem. Unbeknownst to them, the immigrants brought more than just vines with them. They also brought phylloxera. The damage that phylloxera had caused in Europe was echoed in American. The European vines that had managed to survive the change in terroir were not as lucky when it came to surviving phylloxera.

As time passed, technologies in winemaking grew stronger and people became smarter. The wines improved and Pennsylvania was well on her way to wonderful varietals. Again the merit of the wine industry was tested when in 1915 prohibition started. Vineyards were shut down and grape growers were strictly monitored. In 1933 prohibition was repealed and the country’s winemaking could begin again. Things were not as easy for winemakers in Pennsylvania. Even though prohibition had been repealed, the conservatives in the state created local laws that gave Pennsylvania more rules concerning the making and selling of alcohol than any other state. Because of these regulations, winemaking was slow to restart in Pennsylvania.

The second coming for Pennsylvania wine started in the mid-1970s. Native American vines were being graphed with European vines to create stronger varietals that would strive in the Appalachian Mountain terroir. The hilly slopes, rich, fertile soil and moderate season changes formed a recipe for success. Today, Pennsylvania boasts over 70 varietals grown in over 110 vineyards. Interestingly enough, the number one grape grown in this region is the Chambourcin. This grape is a French-American hybrid that is disease resistant. The flavors are similar to Cabernet Sauvingnon.

The future for Pennsylvania wines is bright. With wine becoming trendier, the demand for better quality wines is on the rise. The laws governing the wine making process and sales of wine is the state are loosening. There is even a movement to get wines from Pennsylvania on the same quality and recognition level as New York by 2012. While this is a big goal, it has always been the nature of Pennsylvania and her people to learn and improve. Soon, the wine makers of the state will hold their heads up proudly as the world sees them for more than just Ben Franklin and Andrew Carnegie.

Always thinking of the next meal


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