Scuppernong Woo Hoo!

Duplin Scuppernong

There 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. SomScuppernonge 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).

Scuppernong was also a major part in the beginnings of the mighty Constellation Brands. Long before they became huge, 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

Sight Very pale straw

Nose Wow, 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.

Palate Cloyingly 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  

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

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

Palate Amazingly 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)

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  • 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.

    Steve De Long on
  • 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!

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

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

    bum wine devine on
  • 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.

    Steve De Long on
  • 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)

    John In Belmont on
  • 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.

    cynkorswim126 on
  • 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. :-)

    Wine Snob Not on
  • Now that’s a long finish! :)

    Steve De Long on
  • 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.

    Herb Breese on

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