Illinois winemakers use different grape varieties to produce a diversity of high-quality wines. The top six grape varietals grown in the state cover more than 75 percent of the state’s total grape acreage. Five of these grapes—Chambourcin, Seyval, Vignoles, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc—are “French Hybrids,” developed by crossing French grapes, such as the Chardonnay often grown in France and California, with native American vines. This cross-pollination results in grapes that produce excellent wine, but that are less susceptible to the effects of extreme cold—making them ideal for the Midwest’s unpredictable weather. The other grape in the top six, Norton, originates from native American vines.
A late-ripening, dark blue-black grape that can produce a highly rated red wine with a reasonably full, slightly herbaceous flavor and aroma. Chambourcin grapes are usually used to produce claret or Bordeaux-style wines, but can also be used to make rosé.
One of the most widely planted grapes east of the Rocky Mountains, the Seyval grape features aromas of grass, hay and melon. Seyval produces food-friendly white wines that are often thought of as alternatives to Chardonnay.
Produces excellent white wines of many different styles, including dessert wines and both dry and semisweet varietals.
A hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval vines, this full-bodied, crisp and dry grape produces European-style wines exhibiting toasty oak, ripe apple and pear flavors.
Popular for its fresh and fruity characteristics, the Vidal Blanc grape is similar to Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet grapes and can be vinified in a variety of styles.
Sometimes call Cynthiana, the Norton grape produces a dark, inky red wine with flavors of plums and cherries.