New Red Hybrids Coming From Ed Swanson
Grape breeder Ed Swanson has been working 15 years to develop hybrid wine grapes with tannic structures that appeal to the American palate. Now Swanson is planning to release a ground breaking new red wine grape as early as next year. This new cold hardy grape, which does not yet have a name, has tannins “on par with Merlot, but with more on the berry side,” according to Swanson. As importantly, the new red cultivar reportedly has good grape chemistry directly from the vine.*
Swanson, who owns Cuthills Vineyard in Nebraska, is regarded as one of the leading grape breeders in the Midwest. He worked with legendary grape breeder Elmer Swenson to develop and market Brianna, a cold hardy white wine that is winning both awards and attention from serious wine drinkers.
See related updated story: Brianna is the Midwest’s New Tropical Fruit
Swanson also was one of the first commercial growers to plant Petite Amie, a white hybrid developed by David MacGregor in Minnesota.
Around 2008, Swanson released Temparia, a red hybrid, at his Pierce, Nebraska winery. Temparia is a single cross between Nebraska Riparia (a species of native grape) and Tempranillo.
Swanson said that Temparia was one of the first red selections he bred in 1996. “I could tell right away that it had potential,” he said. (Jancis Robinson thought enough of Temparia to include it in her 2012 wine encyclopedia.)
However, Temparia also has its limitations in the form of a high pH, high titratable acidity combination that restricts the winemaking potential of many cold hardy cultivars. Therefore, Swanson said he does not plan to license Temparia although it can be purchased in a 750 ml bottle at Cuthills Winery.
Unlike Temparia, the new red wine grape is a complex hybrid. The un-named varietal is a combination of a new grape Swanson created using a Riparia, Tempranillo and Chancellor combination which was then crossed with ES 11-2-48. (“ES” stands for Elmer Swenson. The equation for the new hybrid is [ES-11-2-48 X (Riparia x Tempranillo) x Chancellor].)
Swanson said that wine made from this new grape retains the flavor components of its Chancellor parentage. According to FringeWine, Chancellor has an appealing combination of raisins and figs on the nose and palate, although there are problems with Chancellor in the vineyard, not the least of which is early budbreak. Swanson said that his new grape fruits well on secondary buds, alleviating some concerns about cold tolerance.
The new grape also has medium tannins and no “off” hybrid flavors according to Swanson. He said that it should be grafted to enhance vigor and drought tolerance.
All new wines from Swanson’s breeding program are being sold under Cuthills’ new “Primordium Cellars” label. After the first new red hybrid is released, Swanson said he will release another wine grape that has “mega-tannins.” This highly tannic red is a St. Croix x Calzin (Zinfandel x Refosco) cross that produces some tobacco notes which emanate from the St. Croix lineage.
This new grape will probably be used as a blender, Swanson predicted. “Tests last year with various reds revealed improvement with as little as 10% addition,” he said.
Lastly this new high tannin grape has good tolerance to 2,4-D, a herbicide that is causing increasing levels of damage to the Midwest’s growing wine grape industry.
(*Swanson reports TA of 10.5 g/l, pH of 3.58 and a Brix of 23. )