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PA Wine Land’s French Connections

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Many – if not most – of the wine grapes grown in PA Wine Land have a French connection.

The grapes of Bordeaux, especially Cabernet Franc and Merlot, thrive in the state and make great wines.  As do the two primary grapes of Burgundy – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are also used to make sparkling wines as well as table wines.  Sauvignon Blanc grows in the Loire Valley and in the Delaware Valley.  Syrah, native to the Rhone Valley, is having an increasing presence in the Keystone State.

Alongside California, Australia, Chile and Argentina, Pennsylvania has become part of that vast collection of “New World” grape-growing and winemaking regions that produce delicious table wines, dessert wines and sparkling wines from vines that have their heritage in France.

“Our climate is much more similar to France’s climate than it is to Spain’s or Italy’s,” says Joanne Levengood,” winemaker/co-owner of Manatawny Creek Winery in Amityville.  “We get more rain during the summer months, which is somewhat similar to France’s climate.”  Additionally, Levengood says, “a good grower can produce very good Bordeaux and Rhone varieties in Pennsylvania – and these varieties are well-known to the consumer.”

Among the French varieties which Levengood has in her vineyards are Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot.

John Levenberg, a prominent winemaker in California and New York, now consults with several East Coast wineries including Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery in Kennett Square and Grace Winery in Glen Mills.  Levenberg says he loves Pennsylvania for white wine production, especially Chardonnay.  “The wines produced have great balance between alcohol and acidity with mature flavors,” he says.

And while he says Merlot grows well on Long Island, he thinks Pennsylvania has something that is missing there.   “Long Island has very well-drained soils, which are great, particularly for Merlot.  But it is flat and has no topography.  I need mountains to get minerality.”  And Pennsylvania certainly has those.

To find out more about the wineries and wine trails in Pennsylvania, log into www.PAWineLand.com for maps and contact information.  You also will find background on upcoming wine events for Pennsylvania’s 12 wine trails and its more than 150 wineries as well as wine tips and wine information.  And if you’re on the road, find nearby wineries by using the mobile website at m.pennsylvaniawine.com.

Additionally, the staff in the tasting rooms will be happy to discuss with you the types of grapes they grow and how that affects the kinds of wines they produce.