Vidal is a white wine grape that is a hybrid, a combination of two different species of grape varieties. Scientists and enologists create these hybrid grapes in order to combine the desirable characteristics of each grape into one. In the case of Vidal, they were looking to combine the weather hardiness of Rayon d'Or with the acidity and fruit characteristics of Ugni blanc.
The grape was invented by a French scientist in the 1930's in an attempt to create a grape that was resistant to the tumultuous weather patterns of winter in France. The Cognac region, which grows Ugni blanc for the production of their prized elixir, was almost 10 degrees colder one hundred years ago, and the deep freezes were detrimental to the production of Cognac. Thus, Vidal was born.
Vidal eventually found its home in North America, where vintners in the cooler regions of southern Canada and western New York were looking for a vine that could withstand the harsh winters. One of the great outcomes of this was not the production of dry wines, but sweet ones, as Vidal's higher acidity mixed with its propensity to produce sugar was a hit with icewine and dessert wine producers.
One can find great examples of Canadian dessert wines, produced with the Vidal grape, in many great restaurants across North America. The icewine parameters in Canada are as strict as they are in Germany, and the quality is very high. Some of these examples are not cheap at all, and continuously perform well when judged against their European counterparts.
Hybrid grapes are not often sought out in the retail or restaurant market, which makes this one special. Vidal's ability to create interest in a category that is often overlooked is an impressive feat, as hybrid grape varieties are often looked down upon in the fine . As the climate continues to change, vintners and enologists will have to be creative, and Vidal allows the producers of Canada and New York State to do just that.
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