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Synonyms: Cynthiana, Norton’s Virginia, Norton’s Virginia Seedling, Nortons Seedling, Red River, Virginia Seedling, Vitis Nortoni

Wine Name: Norton, Cynthiana

Background: Norton is a purple grape selected from seedlings in the early 1800’s by a Dr. Norton of Virginia. It is considered the only native American grape capable of producing dry red wines similar to those produced from European origin, i.e., vitis vinifera grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. It does not have the “foxy” taste of American native Lambrusca grapes. Genetic studies indicate Norton is mostly Vitis Aestavalis (although Vitis Cinerea is thought to be the parent by Davis Viticultural Research) and Enfariné Noir, a vinifera cultivar related to Pinot Meunier, which shares the rare as well as most common alleles with the presumed `Norton” vinifera parent. The reason there is so much interest in Norton is because of its resistance to mold, mildew and phylloxera which is the opposite of most v. vinifera species.

A grape called Cynthiana has been grown for a long time in Missouri and Arkansas and by genetic studies it appears to be the same as Norton although some would dispute this due to different growing characteristics. However, because there is evidence indicating differences in wine quality and season of ripening, Cynthiana may be a mutation of the original Norton.

Norton is moderately high in malic acid and has flavor profiles of cedar, elderberries, and cherries. It seems to do best with oak aging and malolactic treatment.

Classic Brands and Sources: Horton, Chrysalis Vineyards, Crown Valley


Style #1 – typical

Body – full

Acidity – high

Sweetness – dry

Tannins – medium (+)

Wine and food pairing guidelines:
Norton pairs well with acidic, full-bodied dishes.

Foods and Entrees that usually pair:
Pairs with barbeque, chicken, veal, pork, game and beef that has acidic sauces or marinades.

Cheese Pairings:
Feta, goat cheese, Gouda, Majorero, Mahon, Bucheron, dry Jack cheese, cream cheese, Gouda, Neufchatel, Pont-L’Eveque, Raclette, Reblochon, Roquefort, Saint-Nectare,Vacherin