The Niagara grape belongs to the grape species Vitis labrusca. The grape is also referred to as the “White Concord.” Native to North America, the grape is a hybrid of the Concord grape and the hearty, white Cassady grape. Not only are Niagara grapes used to make wine, the seedless fruit also is used to make jams and is the leading grape used in the production of white grape juice. Possessing a sweet aroma, the Niagara grape is oval-shaped and when eaten fresh can taste sweet or tart.
Two grape farmers from Niagara County, New York, C.L. Hoag and B.W. Clark, crossbred the Concord and Cassady grape in the 1860s. Hoag and Clark’s innovation paid off four years later with their first fruit. Hoag and Clark eventually formed the Niagara Grape Company in 1879 and opened several vineyards across New York. Planting and sales of the grape continued to grow, and in 1889, the Niagara Grape Market was established. Gradually, the market became saturated with Niagara grapes and prices of the fruit plummeted. In 1915, the Niagara Grape Market Company folded.
The fruit flourishes near where it is grown, including the states of New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The grape also is found outside the United States in Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand. Many wineries in New York feature wines made from Niagara grapes.
Planted in the spring, Niagara grapes have the ability to survive the cold temperatures of the Midwest and Northeast. The grapes ripen in September and a full crop takes about five years to grow. The grapes change from a pale green to yellow as fall advances. A climbing vine, the grapes are often grown on trellises or fences and can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet (about 4.6 to 6 m).
The grape can also be grown for landscape purposes. The grape has plenty of green foliage that is coarse in texture. Its height provides screening, while the fruit helps to attract birds to backyards.
The vine requires high maintenance, including annual pruning. If the vines are pruned too much, it can affect the fruit's growth. Pruning of the Niagara grape’s vines are necessary after one year of growth. Vines are often pruned in early spring when they are dormant.
Growing best in full sunlight, the vines thrive best in moist, well-drained areas. The grapes are often grown at least eight feet (about 2.4 m). If grown properly, the vines will produce heartily for more than two decades.