In this episode of the History of Wine Podcast, Matthew Kaner chats to Cha McCoy, a sommelier, New York resident, and founder of Cha Squared Consulting. Together, they discuss the history of wine in New York, including Dr. Konstanin Frank’s work in the Finger Lakes.
Vitis vinifera grapes account for very little of New York’s wine production, a mere 10%. The one grape that shines, however, is Riesling. The aromatic grape produces mostly dry versions from the Finger Lakes AVA. Although, off-dry and sweet versions are relatively common. And similar to Germany-style Riesling, the high acidity in the grape makes it incredibly age-worthy.
As of 2019, there were 470 wineries across the state. However, its two principal winemaking regions, the Finger Lakes and Long Island, account for the majority. Wine production began in the area began in the 17th century. However, commercial production didn’t exist until the 19th century.
In 1951, at the age of 52, Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated from Ukraine. With a Ph.D in Viticulture, he was confident the high-quality grapes could grow in New York. His techniques and innovation revolutionized the area and proved naysayers wrong. Today, the vines he planted in 1958 still produce wine and are considered some of the oldest vines in North America.