The Norse Vikings referred to the east coast of North America as Vinland, with grapes so plentiful they could be smelled from the sea. Such historical abundance is questionable; the description may have been a marketing ploy similar to the misleadingly named Greenland. Yet wild grapes are plentiful throughout the Northeast and they’re ripening now, to the delight of the many animal species that eat them.
Among humans, European grapes seem to get all the attention. Chardonnay, Bordeaux, and the seedless table grapes found in grocery stores are all cultivars of the Mediterranean grape vine Vitis vinifera. The most common wild species in our area are V. labrusca, the fox grape, and V. riparia, the river grape. Both have remained a forest curiosity since European colonization due to their sour taste and low sugar content. Only the Concord grape, a 19th century V. labrusca cultivar used in juice and jelly, has met with commercial success. » Continue Reading.