Niagara and Catawba ripen at opposite ends of the season and yet
they are a very
compatible and popular blend. Niagara (Concord X Cassaday) is popular as a local wine and
eating (seeded, slip skin) grape. When ripe they have a low acid (and a higher pH) that makes them taste really
sweet when picked, however, the sugar will read 17-19 brix or lower.
It is relatively cold-hardy and less susceptible to diseases than other wine
varieties. Tom has it on Geneva Double Curtain trellis and it can do justice to that trellis with proper
care. It can over crop or undercrop and responds to your management.
For winemaking we have found that this variety ripens sugar last and drops the acid first. We end up picking
them a bit earlier than you may want them for eating, just to have a decent acid and pH for amateur winemaking. The
resulting brix in 2005 was 15%. The acid was perfect at 0.75 and the pH was 3.05.
As the sugar is easier to adjust than acid and pH, we pick by acid test of a field sample of grapes and
let our winemakers buy sugar and adjust. In our early years of business, we had some very nice sugars in the
Niagara with acid of .3 to .5 and had to adjust upward or blend.
We found that Catawba, which naturally is higher in acid just by nature, was perfect for blending with some of
these low acid Niagara wines. To estimate how much of each variety was needed for the perfect blend required
a mathematical average of TA numbers. The yeast usually used for these fruity wines are Cotes des Blanc as first
choice for a sweet finish, 71B for a less sweet finish and D 47 for a more dry finish.