Black Spanish or Lenoir, A Grape Study
Black Spanish, also known as Lenoir, is a red grape variety that is the result of a cross between an American Vitis aestivalis and an unknown Vitis vinifera variety, of European origin. It is a grape that has planned an interesting role in Texas wine-making and is worth a second look.
As is the case with fellow native plants, Black Spanish inherited a significant capacity to adapt and tolerate the local environment, including usual threats like the strong winds and some pests and diseases like Phylloxera and Pierce’s disease, for example. The grape’s adaptability even goes to the extent of possessing inherent self-protection against grape-eating animals by means of producing its own repellent. Grapes, like other fruits, are sweet and inviting to predators, such as birds and other animals, as a method of survival as this encourages seed dispersion. Winemakers and vineyard owners are forever struggling to deter these fellow grape lovers from consuming the fruit before harvest. However, it seems that in the case of native American varieties, this natural repellent, a noticeable odor, discourages the local predators from consuming the Black Spanish grapes before harvest time. The grapes only become attractive right at peak ripeness, and a timely harvest prevents significant crop loss.
At Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, we grow this viticulturist’s best friend variety among some other non-native varieties, and we have witnessed the above over the years. Interestingly enough, we might want to watch wild animal’s behavior to set a new harvest index, instead of brix (or sugar content) we may run and pick the grapes right after they start eating them! Only then, the Black Spanish grapes may have reached the so called “physiological ripeness”, making them appealing to both wild animals and winos alike. Now, making wine out of this grape is an altogether different story, so stay tuned! Further comprehensive and well documented research about its history can be found in Fairheaven Vineyards website.
Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking