Wine Blog

IAPETUS TECTONIC: In Defense of Hybrids

There's a grape rattling the door handle to enter the world of fine wine, and guess what? It's a hybrid. 

La Crescent was developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 2002. According to wine-searcher, its ancestry involves vinifera, riparia, rupestris, labrusca and aestivalis. 

Its direct parentage is St. Pepin (derived from Seyval Blanc) and the vinifera Muscat Hamburg (offspring of Muscat of Alexandria). It is particularly suited to (really) cold climates, such as Vermont.

I first tasted this grape variety via Vinu Jancu, a wine from Deirdre Heekin's biodynamic La Garagista project, which I listed at Grapes By Girls: The Orange Edition, an event I did in collaboration with Ben's Canteen highlighting skin contact wines made by women. Its deeply intense aromatics were unlike anything I had tried before and it is a taste that has mentally stayed with me.  

The next time I came into contact with it was with at the release of the Chëpìka, Nathan Kendall and Pascaline Lepeltier's daring Delaware and Catawba hybrid petnat project. There, I met Ethan Joseph, winegrower for Shelburne Vineyard and his own label, Iapetus

Ethan Joseph and Jessica DeBiasio

Ethan Joseph and Jessica DeBiasio

IAPETUS TECTONIC 2017, Champlain Valley, Vermont

From McCabe's Brook vineyard (planted 2008) and Mt Philo vineyard (planted 2010). Vines are trained to a hi-wire system. Both sites have a slightly western aspect and north-south row orientation for max. sunlight exposure. Soils are deep: (get ready for it) - well drained, sandy/stony loams, glacial till derived from limestone, calcareous shale, schist, and quartzite and on sandy deltas, beaches and terraces that are underlain by medium-textured lacustrine deposits. YES! Hybrids on special terroir. This is exciting. What's more - Iapetus is named after the ancient sea which was once covering the ancient bedrock on which these vines grow.

Destemmed and crushed, stainless steel fermented with indigenous yeasts. Fifty days on the skins. Three-quarters of the wine aged in neutral oak on the lees with weekly battonage for three and a half months, the other quarter was aged in stainless steel. Unfined and unfiltered. 

The wine?

It's thrilling, and so complex. A lively yellow peach and apricot, sea air nose. On the palate, there is some herbal notes of rosemary oil and thyme that meet yellow grapefruit pith. There is a distinct golden berry aroma, with tangerine pith and a subtle tamarind spice finish. What a wine.