This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
You request my opinion as to the best native grape for the production of wine. In expressing my views on the subject, it must be understood that my remarks are confined to this section of country bordering upon the Ohio River, and confined to a limited number of varieties; and some of the most promising of these have as yet been subjected to a limited trial only for wine. Within the last twenty years I have had under cultivation and trial not less than thirty varieties of American grapes, and for vineyard culture and to furnish wine for the million, I think it will be a long time before we find a grape in all respects better adapted to the purpose than the Catawba. When properly cultivated and well ripened it makes a good dry wine, superior to the generality of Rhine wines, and a sparkling wine comparing favorably with the champagnes of France.
For making a cheap red wine to take the place of the clarets of Bordeaux, no grape that has been tried hereabout is equal to the hardy and prolific Norton's Virginia Seedling. For choice fancy wines of a superior grade I would place first the Delaware, the Herbemont, the Venango or Minor's Seedling, and the Diana, in the order named. Either of these grapes yield a wine for aroma and delicacy of flavor superior to Catawba, and in my humble judgment equal to Johannisberg, Hermitage, or any of the best wines Europe can produce; but as they have not as yet been tested for extensive vineyard culture, will remain some time in the hands of amateurs only.
Wines made from our native grapes, comprising six or seven distinct botanical species, must necessarily be more diversified than those of Europe. Most of the wine that has been made in this country has been derived from the Labrasca species; all the varieties of which that I have seen possess one peculiar characteristic, being more or less aromatic, varying from the strong-scented fox grape of New England to the most delicate fragrance of the Venango and Diana, giving to the wines made from them a most delightful perfume. This strong and peculiar aromatic quality in all our best American wines will form a distinctive character from the European; and when once familiarized to the palate, I have no doubt will be generally preferred to foreign wines.
There is a common practice in this country, in speaking and writing about native grapes and wines, that seems to me very objectionable, and calculated to detract from their superior merits, that of applying the term foxy to all those highly-flavored varieties which should be characterized as aromatic, and yielding an agreeable perfume, the epithet foxy having a tendency to reduce them to the level of the commonest fox grape, the scent of which by many persons is deemed a disagreeable and vulgar annoyance.
[The above interesting article from Dr. Mosher is in response to a request that he would give us his opinion as to which he considered the best native grapes for the manufacture of wine, a subject which is now attracting a great deal of public attention. We have the opinions of other celebrated wine-makers, which we shall from time to time lay before our readers. There will be found in these communications a great degree of unanimity in awarding to the Delaware the first place for a wine of superior grade; in the words of Dr. Mosher, whose opinion we value highly, "equal to Johannisberg, Hermitage, or any of the best wines Europe can produce." The Herbemont would seem to divide with the Diana the second place for a wine of similar grade. But we purpose giving a resume when the communications are all in. The Doctor, it will be seen, gives to the Catawba the first place as a wine for the million. We would call attention to the Doctor's remarks on the word " foxy." His objections are well taken: it is high time that the word were obsolete. - Ed].