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What are Scuppernong Grapes?

By L. Jablonsky
Updated May 17, 2024
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Scuppernong grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) were the first type of grapes actively cultivated in the United States. The word "scuppernong" is derived from the Algonquin Indian ascopo, meaning "sweet bay tree." The grapes are cultivated in different parts of the United States, but they are chiefly grown in parts of the Southeast.

Scuppernong grapes are a variety of muscadine grape. Muscadines grow wild throughout the Southeast and Midwestern areas of the United States, in states including Missouri, Kansas, Delaware, and North Carolina. Scuppernongs thrive in the South because they require warmer temperatures and a relatively wet growing season. They especially thrive on sandy soils and can be found growing across the southern coastline.

Scuppernong grapes stand out from other muscadine cultivars, as they are bronze or gold in color. They are high in Vitamin C and contain significant amounts of Vitamin B and potassium. The cultivars' sugar content ranges between 16 percent and 25 percent. The skin is thick and tough and the large seeds are bitter. The grapes may be eaten fresh or processed into wine, pies, and jellies.

There are several male and female varieties of scuppernong grapes. Among the female scuppernongs are the Bronze Fry, Bronze Higgins, Bronze Old Fashioned, and Bronze Southern Sweet Scuppernongs. The male varieties include the Bronze Carlos, Bronze Dixie Sweet, Bronze Magnolia, and Bronze Tara grapes.

Explorers recorded the discovery of scuppernong grapes as far back as the 16th century. Sir Walter Raleigh sent reports about his discoveries of the grapes in the Outer Banks. In 1810, Dr. Calvin Jones discovered scuppernong grapes growing in northeastern North Carolina. Eventually, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Agricultural Experimental Station actively cultivated muscadine grapes throughout the region.

Mystery surrounds the Mother Vineyard, the oldest known grapevine in the United States. Located on Roanoke Island, the vine is also known as the "Mother Vine," and scuppernong and other muscadine grapes grow along it. The vineyard, which at one point was half an acre (0.2 hectares) large, appears to have been deliberately planted and cared for. Some historians are still debating over the origin of the Mother Vineyard.

In 2001, the General Assembly of North Carolina declared the scuppernong the official state fruit. Today, grape cultivation is a growing industry in the state, which ranks tenth in the United States in grape and wine production. Wines from the region include sweet and sparkling wines that feature scuppernong grapes.

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Discussion Comments

By anon219059 — On Oct 01, 2011

I wonder if there are grapes very similar in size and taste to the scuppernong anywhere else in the world? The Chinese may have visited the eastern coast of the US on a world-girdling journey in the early 1400's.

By CellMania — On May 29, 2011

My husband and I went on a wine tasting with some friends. I absolutely loved the muscadine wine. It was sweet and was the best wine there. My husband wants to try to make some at home. I’m not sure if you can even do that but it would be well worth the try.

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