Niagara is a green grape from USA, used for both wine production and as a table grape.
It is not only a high yielding variety. Above all it has been bred to stand a tough winter climate. Given where it has its heartland, it is obvious that it also lives up to this.
Being a Vitis Labrusca species, it comes with a different set of flavours than persons who commonly drink Vitis Vinifera based wine.
Niagara wines tend to give the sensation of eating freshly picked table grapes, combined with a certain juiciness. Sometimes it is called “foxy”. This however has nothing to do with the animal, but was originally expressed as a “high-toned, candied muskiness”. It can also be seen as a way of describing an almost artificial flavour, that reminds of sweet bubble-gum.
Niagara based wines from the north-eastern USA tend to be on the inexpensive side of the scale and low in alcohol. Brazilian Niagara based wines are difficult to find outside of the country.
A varietal Niagara wine will pair excellently with mild, creamy cheeses. The wine is best served at 8-10°C/46-50°F.
Where is it grown?
The largest plantings of Niagara can today be found in Brazil (3.177 ha/7,851 ac) where it occupies the fourth place in the list of most planted grapes. Nevertheless, its PTPA is only six percent, a comparatively small number for the fourth grape in the country. It has furthermore lost a staggering seventy-six percent of its plantings between 2000 and 2010, indicating that it rapidly is coming out of fashion.
It is losing ground also in USA, its country of origin – eleven percent in ten years – and it now occupies 1.210 ha/2,989 ac. This gives it a modest twenty-fifth position in the list of most planted grapes in the country. US plantings are concentrated to the area around the Niagara falls.
On the other side of the border, in Ontario, Canada, the belt of Niagara grapes continues. However, in much smaller numbers. 155 ha/383 ac places the grape as the sixteenth most planted grape in Canada. Also, here the variety has decreased substantially. In 2010, reports stated that it had decreased with sixty-six percent in ten years.
There are also some plantings in Japan. A modest 128 ha/316 ac places the grape as the ninth most planted variety in the country. The planted area is fairly evenly distributed between Nagano and Hokkaido.
Niagara’s history is quite uncomplicated. It was created in 1868 from two Vitis Labrusca, Concord and Cassady varieties by two private breeders, Hoag and Clark, who saw the need for a cold resistant variety.