Norton is a red grape native to the United States, grown mostly in its eastern and midwestern regions. Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia are perhaps the key growing regions, though you’ll also find Norton planted in Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and even California. Otherwise, it’s a relatively unknown and obscure grape and is not widely planted anywhere else.
Wines made from Norton are typically robust, full flavored, high in acidity and relatively low in tannin. It has big, fruity flavors when young, but also has the capacity to age. Generally, you’ll find Norton wines offer big, concentrated flavors of black berries and cherries, as well as earthy notes and accents of chocolate and vanilla. Mature Norton wine tends to show less obvious fruit character, and instead, expresses notes of spice and earth predominantly.
The grape is named for Dr. Daniel Norton, a prominent 19th-century grape grower and researcher from Richmond, Virginia. It is also known as Cynthiana in some areas. Where virtually all common wine grape varieties belong to a species of grape vines known as Vitis vinifera, Norton does not—it is a hybrid and includes Vitis aestivalis and Vitis vinifera in its parentage. Wine produced from non-Vitis vinifera grape species can have an unpleasant “foxy” character, resembling animal fur, though Norton is not considered to have this issue.
In the vineyard, Norton vines are hardy and vigorous. They are resistant to numerous vine diseases and other growing problems, including downy mildew, powdery mildew and bunch rot. Its roots are resistant to phylloxera. This is highly advantageous for the winegrower, as pests and disease can wreak havoc and seriously diminish harvest size and quality.
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