The University of Minnesota’s grape breeding program has released a new variety. Itasca, the fifth-cold hardy variety released by the U of M since 1999, has high sugar levels but lower acidity, making it a prime candidate to be vinified as a dry wine.
The U of M’s previous white varieties, La Crescent and Frontenac Gris, are mostly made into off-dry and sweet wines, much like riesling. Many grape farmers in the upper Midwest have been waiting on a dry white grape to make the kinds of dry wines that might gain recognition on a national scale.
Itasca (known as MN 1285 until now) was identified as an elite seedling back in 2009. Researchers say it produces a wine that is “light yellow to straw in color and has aromas of pear, quince, violet, melon, minerals, and subtle honey notes.”
“This is a very nice grape with lots of potential as a wine maker’s grape,” said Bryan Forbes, the university’s wine maker. “It is clean and pleasant with pear and floral notes and mineral notes with a long finish.”
Nurseries will begin selling the Itasca cultivar in 2017. Expect to get your first taste of a finished Itasca wine from a Minnesota winery around 2021.