De Long Wine Moment


February 9th, 2006

Scuppernong Woo Hoo!

Duplin ScuppernongThere are obscure grape varieties, there are strange grape varieties and then there is Scuppernong. Everyone should try it at least once, especially someone like me: a self-styled wine adventurer and president of the Wine Century Club. Thanks to my friend Eric Crane, a fellow Wine Centurion from Atlanta, I was able to give it a go in the comfort of my London home. Watch out, Matt Skinner, we have some extreme wine drinking to do!

But first a little background. Scuppernong is the most famous type of Muscadine grape that’s indigenous to the Southeastern United States and still grown in great quantities there. It’s named after Scuppernong, NC – an Algonquin word — where the grape was first domesticated in the 17th Century. Muscadines (vitis rotundifolia) are much different than from grapes used to make most wines like Merlot and Chardonnay (vitis vinifera) or Condord (vitus lambrusca). They have adapted (or were intelligently designed) to thrive in a hot, humid climate which would cause vinifera or lambrusca grape varieties to rot. Some scientists suggest that Muscadines should be a completely different genus as they have 40 chromosomes as opposed to the 38 chromosomes of other vitus grape varieties. They also have very thick skins that some people consider too tough to eat (but look nice in a bowl).

ScuppernongScuppernong was also a major part in the beginnings of the mighty Constellation Brands who recently purchased Robert Mondavi’s empire in 2004. Long before they got to that point, two North Carolina Scuppernong vineyards were acquired in 1948 to meet the rapidly growing demand for bulk wines in the US. Amazingly enough, it has endured and has developed somewhat of a following. Former president Jimmy Carter even makes wine from Scuppernong. Currently the largest producer of varietal Scuppernong wines is Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, NC. From their website it looks like they have a good sense of humor, which may be necessary to enjoy these wines. Either that or being completely sloshed.

Duplin Scuppernong (white) Non Vintage 12% vol

SightVery pale straw

NoseWow, room filling intensity in a not pleasant way. There is also a glass of Leitz Riesling present that may be suffocating. Solvent-like grape candy and musky/floral perfume. It also smells very sweet. Deborah rushes into the kitchen and opens a window.

PalateCloyingly sweet with much of the same grape candy and musky/floral flavors. Ouch. Finish is painfully long.

Rating: No Stars

Duplin Scuppernong Blush Non Vintage 12% vol

SightPale salmon/bronze (the skins are typically bronze-colored when ripe)

NoseMore intensely solvent/varnish with less grapy muskiness like than its white sibling. Some floral and peach notes and fairly sweet.

PalateAmazingly the acid/sugars are in balance here, however, I’m now concerned about my tougue dissolving. It doesn’t. Uncouthly peachy but drinkable in a rudimentary kind of way.

Rating: One Star (The “OK” rating here is more of a safety rating: this wine meets minimum human standards)

  • Jamie

    Scuppernong? How could I have lived 32 years without knowing about this? with a name like that, I don’t even care what it tastes like!

  • Steve De Long

    For Yanks the odds are pretty much stacked against you. I was once in North Carolina trying to find a little She Crab Soup and a bottle of Scuppernong and received many semi-hostile blank stares.

  • John In Belmont

    How can you speak so poorly of this historical, regional wine! :o) Scuppernong and its sister wine (Catawba) have been made in this area for centuries. Its the wine that everyone’s grandmother makes from their backyard vines and from those harvested in the wilds along the Catawba River and in the Smokey Mountains. I bet you wouldn’t be as critical if your grandmother had made the wine herself. :o)

  • Steve De Long

    Thanks, John for the regional point of view. I’m not sure if you’re yelling at me or if those are semi-blank stares. Your smilies certainly don’t give you away. Yes, I wouldn’t be so critical of Scuppernong if my grandmother made wine from it unless of course she was an evil hag who beat me and locked me in a shed.

  • bum wine devine

    Since your critique, how does it stand up to night train? I’m an avid drinker.

  • Jamie

    I’d love to do a Scuppernong, Alizé Blue, and Maddog Bananaberry tasting.

  • Steve De Long

    Hey B W D, I’m not sure anything can stand up to night train WOO-WOO! All aboard to nowhere! Does Mad Dog come in Bananaberry just like Jamie says?

  • Herb Breese

    During my last trip to NC I picked up a bottle of the Blush. Talk about a long finish . . . there is still about three inches in the bottle, in the fridge. I can’t finish it.

    Must be an acquired taste, but 12% alcohol so you get at least something out of it.

    I’m going back next week. I’ll know to try something else.

  • Steve De Long

    Now that’s a long finish! :)

  • Wine Snob Not

    I’m enjoying a bottle of Scup at the moment. It goes great in/with a pork dish I just made with an apricot/mustard glaze.

    I guess I’m “regional” living in SW Virginia. My friend’s mother used to make wonderful damson wine which was always a hit at the parties. Ah well.

    Red necks, white socks…and blue ribbon beer. :-)

  • cynkorswim126

    Well folks, my experience with scuppernong was pleasant and fun. My dear 88-year old neighbor (just passed away this spring, bless her) had talked about scup for years, she hadn’t been able to find it forever and always wanted to taste it again. That was her favorite she always told me. We live in Ohio. I told her I never heard of it, that was 5 years ago. Well, she told me more, it always came up in conversations some how and we talked about a lot of things, believe me. And then, lo and behold last Christmas, she got her hands on a bottle. I believe her daughter or granddaughter brought it up for her. She shared it with me when she first got it, I knew she was saving it to savor, but she said wine was more fun sharing and then she shared it again the next week with my friend Marc and I, as we were sitting at our favorite place, her breakfast table. “Janice”, was her name and that wine was so sweet, nice and musky. I like sweet wines, I like anykind of wines, almost. She was generous enough to share the whole bottle, eventially. A week later, I got on the internet and was searching and found her two recipes for scuppernong, it tickled her pink-she even kept a copy of the recipes! I knew she would never make it, but she wanted me to remember the taste and knew that someday, I would try to make it. I haven’t yet, but anytime I can get my hands on a bottle, I “will have a drink to Janice” and remember all the fun times with her. So for me, maybe it’s more of memories, but I like it.

  • Sweet Neet

    Cynkorswim, I can relate to Ms. Janice’s passion for Scuppernong Wine. It’s wonderful you’re keeping her memories alive! The memory of Scuppernong grapes are well folded into my fondest multisensory childhood memories of growing up in North Carolina. We had a large scuppernong vine at home (along with pecan trees, peach trees, and pear trees) and I remember checking, harvesting, and (of course) eating the grapes. There was a very specific art to eating them. We learned to quickly separate the thick skin and larger seeds from the edible sweet fruit/pulp–all intraorally. I remember tasting the good homemade wine. Cynkorswim, I don’t know what your climate is like there, but did you know you can find the plants and/or the seeds listed for sale on that most popular online auction site? (smile) I hope you get to try out the wine recipes!

  • SethnGA

    Well I don’t know too much about wines but every year when the harvest comes in I always want to take them and make wine, beer, or if I had the resources (a still) moonshine with them. But seeing how it is my Mom’s family property and we are Southern Baptist they frown upon it so we just make jellies and this year made a pie from a long forgotten recipe. And by the way the pies are killer! Hands down better then any blueberry pie you could throw at me and on the up-side no skins in the teeth unlike blueberry.

    I know I might be off subject but I figure I would share cause it is harvest season as of Sept 21st for my family. I will start looking around here for that kind of wine though, just to study up on the future competition! ;) I know for a fact I don’t like the bitter kinds of wine, but who knows, I at one time didn’t like beer.

    Here’s to the hunt for the wine! And I better not get any dirty looks from Snooty, elitist wine shop owners cause as a avid Southern drinker I will call’em out on it.

    Now thats what I call Southern Charm!

  • cynkorswim126

    Hello, I just popped in, I found this sight again, and thank you, Sweet Neet. I was thinking of Janice, and scup as well. Yesterday was Halloween, and that was Janice’s favorite time, watching the kids come dressed trick or treating. I looked across the yard at her house and thought of all the good times, and today ws thinking about the wine.
    I think I will look to those sites and get me some.

  • http://N/A greenmg

    Well, we had a large arbor of scuppernongs in our back yard when I was growing up. My mother wouldn’t have anything to do with them, but my Baptist minister father used to pick them, put them up in canning jars, and store them in the basement for “juice”. I don’t know the recipe he used, but somehow that juice always developed a tremendous kick, and my father liked to make frequent trips to the basement. It was really sparkly as I remember. I wish I had a lovely scuppernong vine in my back yard, but I live in Minnesota now, and I fear it wouldn’t make it through the winter; I barely do myself!!

  • cinnel

    Duplin Scuppernong is absolutely the best. I tried others. None can campare!!! I give it an amazing * * * * *(5 stars) .

  • P Weaver

    Well I don’t know much about wines myself, however,the Mayor of my small town has these Scuppernong Vines
    that were just loaded with berries several months back, says to me, come pick all you want, before the deer & the
    birds gets them. I DID ! (Wow !!) that was 17 gallons of berries & 4 1/2 months ago.The results ( evryone has
    given my wife & I an A+. Nice fruity aroma, take a sip, swush in around in your mouth,slitly sweet taste, but with
    a litltle punch (15%).Going to put back several bottles to age ( that’s our plans anyway) . All of our friends here in
    AL.are asking for more samples. Must be a Southern Thing Huh !

  • Jason

    I have wild scuppernong growing in my back yard, and just 10 minutes ago (yeah it was 9:45 pm big deal lol) was outside picking them and eating them. They have a concord grape like taste to them, with a very thick skin (that to me presents a pleasant snap) that is much more sower than the pulp. Home made wine would probably be the best way to go on this. with the high sugar content I am sure you could make great liqours easily. I do not like duplin, but have had many a homemade variety that was smooth as silk and great after dinner.

  • Chris

    I have about 300 ft of scuppernong & muscadine vines that my Dad planted 30 years ago. We can’t possibly use them all. We made 10 gallons of scuppernong and scuppernong/muscadine wine last year and everyone who tasted it was amazed. 2 glasses = happy. 3 glasses = sort of stupid (what a kick!). This year my Yankee friend and I are making more varieties including blackberry/scuppernong. I am in love with homemade wine!

  • BurrRabbit

    I am planting several muscadine and scuppernong vines this winter. Wine will follow!

  • DG

    I grew up in eastern NC, land of small farms and watermen,where homemade Scuppernong wine was as traditional as a fall hog-killing. I left NC to make a living, and in those years I developed a taste for Chardonnay and Reisling but always managed to get a jug of good ol’ homemade NC Scuppernong wine for the holidays. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the winery Scuppernong stuff any better than you did. It is way too sweet and as a drinking wine I fine it cloying (but not bad when poured on fruitcakes); however,some of the homemade stuff is incredibly good drinking wine. The problem is, I don’t make it myself, and it seems like everybody has a little different recipe. Some may be blends of Scuppernong with other grapes. I think a shot or two of moonshine (or Vodka these days may be in there too. I got a gallon jug of Scuppernong wine from a friend Friday, and it is incredibly good. It’s a little sweet, but no more so than a good German Reisling, but it has some heat when it goes down, just to let you know you’re drinking something that can knock you on your rear end if you’re not careful. It looks like a dark Rose wine, and has just athe right distinct but not overpowering Scuppernong taste.

  • Chris

    In a follow up to my previous post, we ended up with 40 gallons of scuppernong and muscadine wine in 2009 and as of June 2010, we have very little left, lol. The blackberry scuppernong was the best of all and I plan on making more of that this year. BTW, if the guy at the brewing shop tells you that champagne yeast is the same as montrachet, don’t believe him. You end up with Sparklenong – a slightly fizzy wine that will absolutely kick your tail. Peach scuppernong wine is next…

  •,, Herb Breese

    OK, OK . . . I’m back for a minute. It was the Duplin, I’m sure, that was the problem. Since my last post I’ve been through some changes (stroke, but recovered) and my taster is pretty well broke, but now that I know there is such a thing as homemade I’m willing to try again. Also, my GF now has one daughter in SC and two in NC so I may have a chance to explore next year.

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  • Leslie Hines

    At the north end of the Wright Memorial Bridge as you leave the Outer Banks heading toward Virginia there is a small local winery called NATIVE VINE. They produce a scuppernong wine called Kitty Hawk White. It’s semi-dry; lighter in taste than both their own sweeter version and Duplin’s. Still has that distinct scuppernong flavor if you are a fan.