Ranking fifth nationally in the number of grapes gown, seventh in wine production, home to thirty three different grapes and more than 14,000 acres of some of the most fertile grape-growing land on the East Coast, Pennsylvania's hot summers and cold winters is more like Europe than California and presents the ideal terroir for French-American hybrid grapes, and traditional vinifera varieties.
Home to five AVAs, three of which are shared with other states and numerous wine trails, Pennsylvania wine is as unique as it is diverse. Plan your trip to Pennsylvania Wine Country today.
Pennsylvania's American Viticultural Areas (AVA)
Lake Erie AVA is in the northwest and includes the state’s entire waterfront on Lake Erie and extends along the lake in both directions into New York and Ohio. The vast majority of grapes are Concord and are used for making grape juice. In addition, the handful of wineries in this region produce a mix of wines including Vitis vinifera varieties such as Riesling and Cabernet Franc, French-American hybrids such as Seyval Blanc and Vignoles and native varieties such as Catawba, Niagara and Delaware.
The other AVAs are southeast of the Appalachian Mountains, which provide protection from some of the worst weather coming from the northwest in winter. From west to east lets explore the other wine areas of Pennsylvania.
Cumberland Valley AVA is southwest of the state capital Harrisburg and extends south into Maryland. The region is home to a range of grape varieties, from cold-hardy hybrids to Vitis vinifera. Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc and Niagara can all be found growing in the area's few vineyards.
Lancaster Valley AVA is in Pennsylvania Dutch country around the cities of Lancaster and York and home to some of Pennsylvania’s earliest successful vineyards. Lancaster Valley wines are made from French-American hybrids such as Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc, various native grapes such as Delaware, and well-known vinifera varieties, dominated by Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and the standard components of Meritage or Bordeaux Blend wines.
Lehigh Valley AVA is the largest and most active wine region in Pennsylvania which includes portions of Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Schuylkill, Carbon and Monroe counties. Here you will find almost every vinifera varietal imaginable grows well in the region’s well-drained shale and limestone soils from Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, various German and Austrian white varieties (home to the first Austrian Grüner Veltliner grape in Pennsylvania) to French-American hybrids such as Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc.
Central Delaware Valley AVA crosses the Delaware River into New Jersey on a very scenic and touristic stretch of the Delaware River. A mix of Vitis vinifera and hybrid grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Delaware, can be found planted in the AVA's few vineyards. Viticulture has not spread widely here and only a few wineries are producing Central Delaware Valley wines due to the cool continental climate of the area.
The Grapes of Pennsylvania
With 33 different grapes we cant share all of them, however here is a small sample.
Reisling varies from sweet to dry depending on winemaking style ane region. Wines from the Northwest region have a sweet peach flavor with a crisp tartness, while the SouthCentral region has more citrus and floral notes.
Vidal Blanc has tropical fruit notes and varies from dry, semi dry, dessert to ice wine styles. Wines from the Northwest region are bright and crisp, while the SouthCentral region are more floral in flavor.
Grüner Veltliner is a crisp, dry, aromatic white with a grassy, green bean or dill flavor and hints of tropical fruits. This well known grape from Austria can be found throughout the state, however, it was first planted in the SouthEast region.
Lemberger can fall into two categories; strong and full bodied like a California Zinfandel, or a lighter and softer Pinot Noir. Aging in oak barrels can mellow its acidity and complement its cherry, chocolate and spice aromas and flavors.
Chambourcin has earthy, tabacco and vanilla aromas, a supple mouthfeel and an intense red color. It is often aged in oak to round out acidity. This red hybrid has become one of the state’s most popular varietals.