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What is a Niagara Grape?

By Steve R.
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By Malka — On Sep 06, 2011

Wow, the explanation about the origins of the Niagara grape made me do a double-take! Cassady and Concord, really? It seems bizarre to me, considering the deep dark color of Concord grapes, that the Niagara grape would come out as a white grape. Why didn't it get any of the color of the Concord grape when they crossbred them?

I had the opportunity to try some Niagara wine once, and I can tell you with confidence that the Concords definitely affected the flavor of the Niagara grapes. I just have to wonder why you can't see it on the grapes' skins.

By seHiro — On Sep 05, 2011

Very cool article on the Niagra grape. The background history part was the most interesting to me. I guess this is a prime example of how a product can be too successful, huh?

Niagra grapes became so popular that they flooded the market, then since everybody already had them nobody would pay any special price for them. Supply went way up and demand went way down, and just like that, the business was over.

I assume that at that point, Niagra grapes were so popular and widespread that people kept selling them and making money off of them, even after the main grape company folded, right?

By VivAnne — On Sep 05, 2011

@malmal - This is one of the rare cases where you should ignore the care instructions most people give for Niagara grapes for best results. See, pruning grape vines is essential to the plant's ability to produce fruit.

If you want to use the grape vines for ground cover, likely you're going to encourage them to grow as much as possible -- and that means not pruning away parts of them, right? If you want to avoid stepping on bunches of grapes, then this situation is perfect. Simply don't prune your grape vines and they'll almost certainly only produce tiny grapes -- possibly no grapes at all.

Hope this helps you out! Growing grapes for ground cover isn't a bad use for them, but personally if I invested in buying Niagara grapes, I would be pruning them carefully so that one day they would produce me with up to two decades of steady fruit production!

By malmal — On Sep 04, 2011

Okay, I knew that grapes could be used for grape growing for wine and such, but I had no idea you could also use them for ground cover. That sounds like a unique kind of landscaping!

I'm curious, if you just use them for ground cover, will the vines still grow grapes? While it would be really cool to have Niagara grapes as ground cover for the leaves, I don't think I'd like it so much if the vines grew tons of grapes and I ended up stepping on them or anything.

Is there any difference between "grape growing" Niagara grapes and ground cover Niagara grapes?

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