USA’s first wine using ‘extinct’ variety recreated

17th June, 2014 by Rupert Millar

A history enthusiast who has revived what is commonly held to be America’s first commercial vineyard hopes to begin selling wine using the “Alexander” variety that was originally planted there and thought to be extinct.

First Vineyard; photo credit: Bonnie Phelps

First Vineyard; photo credit: Bonnie Phelps

“First Vineyard” in Nicholasville, Kentucky is so named as the Kentucky legislature declared it to be the country’s first commercial vineyard in a decree of 1799.

The vineyard was founded by a Swiss immigrant called John James Dufour and the first wine from the vineyards overlooking the Kentucky River were consumed on 21 March 1803 when financial backers were given the first taste of the new vintage, as was President Thomas Jefferson, a well-known wine lover, who was sent two five gallon casks.

A serious frost destroyed the crop in 1806 and Dufour moved his winemaking to Indiana where there was a large Swiss community.

However, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, local man Tom Beall has been buying plots of land on the original site of the vineyard since 1995.

To begin with he was attracted to the beauty of the natural surroundings but a keen interest in history inspired him to look into its past and he chanced upon its background.

The retired former policeman and construction businessman set about restoring the vineyard in 2006, replanting the site with varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay and more recently the Alexander variety that used to grow there and which was common in early US vineyards.

A crossing of European and native US vines, it was resistant to North American diseases while retaining a more attractive, European fruit character.

Thought to be extinct, Beall obtained cuttings from the department of agriculture and hopes his first small batch of 75-125 bottles using Alexander will be available in 2015.

Admitting he is “more of a historian than a wine connoisseur,” the grapes are sent to Shepherdsville to be vinified but the winery has a strong cellar door business and sees, by Beall’s estimation, 6,000 visitors a year.

More on First Vineyard can be found here.

4 Responses to “USA’s first wine using ‘extinct’ variety recreated”

  1. Byron C Mayes says:

    Alexander is a spontaneous hybrid between European vinifera and North American labrusca varietals. There are no native US vinifera varietals.

  2. winewiz says:

    There aren’t any native US vinifera grapes.

  3. I don’t see where the author stated that there are any native North American V. Vinifera grapes. As far as parentage goes, Lucie Morton states that Alexander is a cross of V. Vinifera with either V. Labrusca or V. Riparia.

  4. Tony Lima says:

    In Thomas Pinney’s “A History of Wine in America (vol. 1) he notes that the exact origins of the Alexander grape are uncertain (pp. 117-126). Personally, I’m inclined to believe the American grape was the labrusca, if only because that variety is, um, promiscuous. You can read our review of this article as well as some quotes from Pinney here: http://virginiawinefan.com/2014/07/first-vineyard-u-s-kentucky/ For more information on the labrusca, especially its role in the North Carolina wine industry, see our review in the Journal of Wine Economics here: http://www.wine-economics.org/aawe/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/JWE2011-V6-No2-Reviews.pdf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Wine Buyer

Conviviality Plc
Crewe, UK

Sales Account Manager - On-Trade

Berkmann Wine Cellars
Liverpool

Sales Account Manager - On-Trade

Berkmann Wine Cellars
M3/M4 corridor

Media Sales Manager - Hong Kong

The Drinks Business Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Regional Account Manager

New Generation McKinley
London, UK

Experienced Sales Account Manager – On Trade

Cantina Goccia
London and the south, UK

National Sales Manager – Premium Drinks

Core Recruitment
London based with national travel

Wine Trainee

Stone, Vine & Sun
Twyford, near Winchester, Hampshire

Senior Technologist - Drinks

Conviviality Group
London, UK

Procurement Manager

JF Hillebrand Global Beverage Logistics
Essex, UK

Porter & Laker Manager

Porter & Laker
Essex, UK

Sales Manager & Brand Ambassador - Southwest

Salcombe Distilling Co.
Southwest of England - reporting to Salcombe HQ, GB

Head of Marketing

ATOM Supplies
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

The Global Merlot Masters 2017

Deadline : 24th February 2017

The Prosecco Masters 2017

Deadline : 10th March 2017

db Awards 2017

Deadline : 28th April 2017

The Global Organic Masters 2017

Deadline : 3rd March 2017

Click to view more

The Global Sparkling Masters

the drinks business is thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Sparkling Masters

The Global Rosé Masters 2016

the drinks business is proud to announce the launch of the Global Rosé Masters 2016.

The Prosecco Masters 2016

Now in its third year, the competition will reflect the growth in popularity of this fresh and exciting sparkling wine from the picturesque regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2016

After the success of last year’s competition that judged over 250 wines from no less than 16 countries, the drinks business is proud to announce the third year of the Global Pinot Noir Masters

Click to view more