The majority of commercial grape varieties around the world belong to the species, Vitis vinifera. In New York, however, V. vinifera varieties are only one part of a diverse group of varieties including those derived from the fox grape, V. labrusca, and hybrids of native American species with V. vinifera. This bulletin describes the broad range of varieties available for commercial use, as well as those with potential for home vineyards and roadside markets. Generally, the varieties described within are adapted to cool climate growing regions. Some may be suitable for use in the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic growing regions of the United States. The descriptions and information in the Tables 1-3 may be used to help choose varieties suited to specific needs. Further information may be obtained from the Cooperative Extension Service in your home state as well as from the references listed at the end of this publication.
Most of the grape acreage in New York is planted with the Concord variety (Table 1). Among the top five varieties, Concord, Catawba and Niagara descended from V. labrusca; Aurore was derived from several American species crossed with V. vinifera, and Chardonnay is a pure variety of V. vinifera. Vinifera grapes are described in this publication, and more extensively elsewhere (Pool et al., undated).
For commercial production, the most important factor for a potential grower to consider is market. Before planting, growers should consult with buyers to ensure that there is a demand for the fruit they will produce.
Grape varieties vary greatly in tolerance to diseases. Disease resistance is an important consideration when deciding which varieties are suitable for a given site. Varieties which are more susceptible to disease will require more effort to keep disease under control. Home gardeners may be especially interested in growing the more disease tolerant varieties.
Potential for winter cold tolerance is genetically controlled and is primarily a function of the variety. However, the actual level of cold hardiness attained in the vineyard is affected by vine health status, crop load during the previous season, degree of vine acclimation to cold preceding exposure to a damage-inducing temperature and other factors. Dormant buds may be damaged at one temperature and trunks at another. Ratings of relative resistance to winter cold (Table 2) are generalized to reflect the overall range in varietal tolerance, but the reader must be cautioned that the cultural practices and environmental events mentioned above may greatly reduce or increase a vine's ability to resist cold damage. Information on relative resistance to diseases and cold injury is found in Table 2.