These resilient grapes are as tasty as they are good for you
Courtesy of North Carolina Wine & Grape Council
Think of the scuppernong as the South’s supergrape. It outlasts scorching temperatures that would shrivel the pinot, chardonnay, or gamay (and provides forty times more antioxidants). Its unusually thick skin keeps the bugs at bay. And it makes a robust jelly or wine, perfect accompaniments to duck, pork, or even fried green tomatoes. Although its range spans from southern Virginia to Florida, this golden variety of muscadine is most closely associated with North Carolina, where it was first cultivated and still sprouts up in backyards each August in clusters of jawbreaker-size goodness. The scuppernong’s sweetness has also made it a favored ingredient in treats such as sorbet and pie, but many North Carolinians will tell you there’s no need to tamper with perfection. To really eat one like a local, just pluck it from the vine, bite a small hole in the skin, and suck out the good stuff.
The G&G Guide to Scuppernongs
Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazano wrote the first recorded tribute to the “big white grape” after spotting scuppernongs in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River Valley in 1524. Explorers sent by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 are believed to have discovered the Mother Vine, a massive vine spanning an acre of Roanoke Island. It still produces scuppernongs today.
Scuppernong wine was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite. He made his own version from grapes at Monticello.
Cultivating scuppernongs requires an arbor or a trellis at least ten feet long by six feet wide that sits in sunlight. These tenacious grapes can grow in most any kind of soil, provided they are not subject to standing water.
Scuppernong wine is the oldest wine made in America. The family-owned Duplin Winery, in Rose Hill, North Carolina, is the largest scuppernong wine producer. Bottles range from $7.50 to $13. duplinwinery.com