Black Italian grapes

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GANGGREEN

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My grandfather, God rest his soul, brought a grapevine across the Atlantic with him in his boot, stowed away in his luggage (I'm not kidding) when he was 16 years old and immigrating to America. That was 85 or 90 years ago. He kept that grapevine alive (or cuttings from it) for his entire life and made many, many gallons of wine from it.

One of my brothers took a cutting from the vine before my grandfather passed away and after many years of messing with it, finally got it to take hold and has passed a cutting along to me. I planted my cutting last spring and will baby it and try to get it to prosper, though I don't live in a very good grape area.

I'm curious if anyone could venture a guess as to what it might be. I don't really have much recollection of the attributes of the grapes or of the wine (sadly, Grandpa wasn't much of a winemaker) but I do recall it being a large, black, oblong shaped grape, about the size of a really large olive. Grandpa was from the region of Naples for what it's worth. Any guesses as to what variety I have here or what type of wine it might produce?
 

Rock

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Sounds like alicante grape very dark big and juicie.The old timmers used this grape to darken the wine mostly zinfandel.
 

GANGGREEN

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Thank you Rock, I'll do a Google search or try to find some more information in a book.
 

GANGGREEN

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For what it's worth, I googled alicante grapes and found that they were originally found in France. Would they have been found in Italy in the early part of the 20th century? I guess by that point, grapes had been moved and traded for hundreds, if not thousands of years, huh?
 

DesertDance

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We have Alicante Bouchette on order because it is a grape that loves heat, and we have that for sure! Whether or not Alicante is the varietal you have doesn't really matter. It's the romance of the story of your grandfather, his boot, the smuggling, and the years of vines and winemaking that is so very cool! Thanks for sharing!

Because Alicante is a choice vine for us, here is my research:

The popularity of Alicante Bouschet has waned over the last half century amongst commercial winemakers. However, Alicante Bouschet's story and heritage lends a colorful glimpse of another side of winemaking in the 20th century. Alicante Bouschet hit its height of popularity in the United States, during Prohibition. Alicante Bouschet’s vibrant red color allowed bootleggers to stretch it with water and sugar. Alicante Bouschet's thick skin, providing the grape's anti-oxidant properties, also proved popular with east coast home winemakers since it proved capable of making the long trek cross country. By the 1930s, it accounted for a third of all grape production in California. Sixty years later, with Prohibition long since repealed, this native of southern France has largely fallen from favor. Alicante Bouschet is still grown,but it is mainly used to add color and a tannic edge to the bulk wine production of California’s Central Valley and its southern France homeland. In California, it now amounts to less than one percent of grape production and its acreage is constantly declining. This grape can still be found in Spain -- where it is known as Garnacha Tintorera ( a reference to its parentage of Grenache and Petit Bouschet -- and also in Corsica, Italy, South Africa, and Portugal, where it is an allowable grape in the production of port. One of the few grapes with a lively, even gory, red-pigmented, free-run juice, Alicante Bouschet is a highly-productive blending grape, sometimes used – discreetly of course -- with nobler grapes to add color, depth and roundness. Born of a cross between parents Grenache and Petit Bouschet, this grape can trace its lineage back to an earlier pairing of Teinturier du Cher with Amaron, to create Petit Bouschet. Arguably, this grape was never given a proper chance to prove its worth outside of the hot climates of the Central Valley and southern France. Except for a few diehard producers on California’s North Coast, it seems destined for further decline. ALICANTE BOUSCHET: Minor grape originating from a 19th century cross using the Aramon and ancient Teinturier native vine, resulting in a hybrid varietal. This in turn was crossed with the Grenache to give the named grape. Widely grown in France, California and Spain. In the latter country it is known as Garnacha Tintorera. In the cool Champagne region of France it is the main grape used to make the sweet "vin mousseux" - (sparkling wine). Often known as "Alicante" for short. Elsewhere the canned juice is used by many amateur winemakers for fermenting homemade wines. The grape is known for its deep dark color, more than 15 times the color of Aramon and twice the darkness of the Grand Noir de la Calmette. The grape produces high yields, an average of 80 hl/ha. It buds and ripens early to produce wines often with alcohol levels around 12%. The wines produced by the grape alone typically aren't of the highest quality and tend to be flabby, lacking character and complexity. The grape vine is prone to grape diseases like anthracnose and downy mildew.[4] The grape leaves of the vine are unique in that they have patches of purple coloring.

Good luck with your vines!
Suzi
 

mmadmikes1

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I love learning and great stories, both in one thread
 

GANGGREEN

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Suzi, thanks for posting the history of the grape, that was helpful and educational.
 

AlFulchino

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yes, great story....i did not see in your profile where you live now...is it a similar temperate climate such as naples italy?
 

GANGGREEN

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I'm in northern Pennsylvania. I've never been to "the old country" but, based on what little I know of the family's history and geography, I'm guessing that our winters are much colder and the summers are cooler, though I'm not positive. I'm also not sure about soil types. As I said before, I'm not in a great grape region. You can grow good grapes on the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes (directly to my north), but I don't have that favorable micro-climate going on here in the mountains.
 

AlFulchino

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i believe you are several zones short of what you need in order to compare Naples to PA

the vine itself may be able to handle what you need...just dont know w/o knowing the variety....did your grandfather by chance live up in the mountains where it would have been cooler than the typical naples temps?
 

GANGGREEN

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My brothers have been there with their wives and would know better than I would but I think they lived in the hill country outside of Naples. I'm not sure of the spelling but the village was called BiaLatina if you would happen to be familiar with the area.
 

AlFulchino

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there is a city called latina, just southeast of rome..notreally near naples asyou suggested...and for a comparison of growing/hardiness zones just do a google search...keep in mind celsius will be used in the italian hardiness map

i think depending on where you are in PA, you zones probably run from zones 4-6 maybe you have a seven as well in the most moderate part of the state....Italy is a zone four in the upper regions only...and the south is in zone ten

time to talk w your brothers
 
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