Rewards and Challenges of Making Muscadine Wine

Red muscadine grapes on the vine.
Red muscadine grapes on the vine.

Muscadine wine is made from muscadine and scuppernong grapes.

History of Muscadine Grapes

Muscadine grapes are primarily grown in warmer climates, such as the southeastern United States and other areas around the world. These grapes are considered to be high in antioxidants, which has wine drinkers saying that it not only tastes good, but it is good for you too.

Muscadine wine grapes were introduced in the southwestern United States in the 1700's. Early settlers cultivated them for use in making wine, jellies and preserves. They grow well in warm climates, making them a perfect addition for gardens south of the Mason-Dixon line. These particular grapes grow in loose clusters, unlike other grapes that grow in tight bunches. Muscadine grape growers can shake the vines and the ripe grapes will fall to the ground easily.

Scuppernong Grapes

There is a saying among grape growers regarding muscadine grapes: all scuppernongs are muscadines, but not all muscadines are scuppernongs. The early settlers in Tyrell County, North Carolina discovered these grapes along Scuppernong Lake around 1755. They were known as the "Big White Grape." Their bronze-green colored fruit makes them easy to identify and in the sunlight, these grapes look as if they've been dusted with gold powder. Scuppernong grapes are usually used in the production of dry, red wines.

Muscadine Grapes

For many, the dark red or dark blue colored muscadine grapes are the most familiar. These grapes are used to make sweet wines. They are also used to make jams, jellies, juice and syrups. They grow well in hot and humid regions where there is enough rainfall at the beginning of the growing season to start the young rootstock.

These grapes are grown commercially and can be found throughout the following states, as well as other hot and humid areas outside of the United States:

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina

Muscadine Wine

Wineries who make muscadine wines and ports are also found throughout the southeastern United States and around the world. Wine is made using different fermentation techniques- either fermenting with the skins or without the skins. Since muscadine grapes have a tough, sometimes bitter skin, the skins are usually removed prior to the fermentation process. Vintners of the sweet, white wine add sugar to the process to make the wine more palatable.

To make the grapes easier to press, a process using citric acid and pectinase is used to soften the skins. This process is also being used to prepare the fruit for other uses, such as fruit leather and preserves.

Wine Types

There are many variations of muscadine wine available to the consumer. These are but a few of the types available on the market:

  • Magnolia - White grapes
  • Scuppernong - White grapes
  • Hunt - Red grapes
  • Blackberry Bramble - Red grapes and blackberries
  • Williamsburg White - White grapes
  • Carolina Red - Red grapes
  • Apple - White grapes and apple juice
  • Noble Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carlos Riesling
  • Sherry

Many of the wines made with the muscadine grape are blends. Two fruit blends, apple and blackberry, are very popular with vintners in the southeastern United States.

Wine Problems

One problem that has kept producers from extensive marketing of muscadine wine is browning. Both the white and red wines brown, depending upon temperature and length of time after bottling. Some of these wines may only last several months before browning and the majority of the vintages have some degree of browning before the end of the first year after being bottled.

For this reason, some grape growers are considering the production of wine vinegar because of its longer shelf life.

Even the casual gardener and hobby wine maker can make wine from the muscadine grape. While it presents its share of problems for commercial wine makers, it can be made into many wines and wine blends to satisfy the consumer. The white wines are often paired with seafood dishes as well as beef and lamb. The sweeter, white wines are a perfect accompaniment to meals or simply as a dessert wine. If you can't find these wines in your locality, they can be easily purchased online. The following list will help you locate some of the retailers in the southeast:

Rewards and Challenges of Making Muscadine Wine