The Scuppernong

When the Vikings first came to North America, they called the area Vinland because grapevines grew here by themselves, producing delicious wine. Centuries later, records from early English expeditions to the New World described wild grapes growing on Roanoke Island. English explorer Thomas Harriot noted, “There are two kinds of grapes that the soile doth yeeld natural…the one is small and sowre…the other farre greater & of himselfe iushious sweet.” The latter grapes are thought to be the scuppernong variety, a white muscadine grape that has been cultivated for winemaking purposes since at least the colonial era.

A 400-year-old scuppernong grapevine, of the muscadine family, still grows in the town of Manteo, North Carolina; called the Mother Vine, it is thought to be the oldest cultivated vine in the world. Although records vary on the precise genesis of grape growing and winemaking in the Americas, there is evidence that this vine was cultivated in pre-colonial times by Native Americans, and by English colonists after them. A clipping of the Mother Vine has been planted at Virginia Dare Winery, to honor the rich heritage of American winemaking.