Heart of Louisiana: La. Grapevine

There are some wine-making fruits that grow very well in Louisiana.

Wine maker Henry Amato bottles nine different fruit wines at his vineyard near the town of Independence. Like many Louisiana wineries, he also makes wine from the native muscadine grape.

"It's got a different flavor. It's just like a lot of your variety of grapes are different," he says.

The more traditional bunch grapes that are used for wines are hard to grow in Louisiana's harsh climate.

"It's so hot and humid here, and like the merlot grapes, they can't survive this temperature in the south," Amato says.

But mixed in with the heavy undergrowth along the edge of the fields on Amato's farm was a mysterious plant, a vine that produced bunches of grapes. It was a plant that thrived on its own - naturally.

"It's so heavily grown up in that back where this plant was found that nobody knew it was back there if you really weren't looking for it."

But quite by accident, that plant is gone.

The grapevine was growing next to an old share croppers cabin. When the parish cleaned out the drainage canal, the plant was destroyed.

It was luck that before the only known plant disappeared, Amato had taken a cutting and shared it with researchers at LSU.

"It would have been gone if we wouldn't have gotten that one cutting and transplanted it from back there over here," Amato said.

Grapes from the Louisiana vine have been analyzed . They have a good sugar content and should produce a nice Chardonnay. This year, 20 of the plants created beautiful clusters of plump grapes, enough for up to ten gallons of wine.

Next year there will be more of the Louisiana grapes. LSU has propagated an additional 200 vines for planting in the Fall. Amato has named the grape, the Lasaracihanna.

"It's named after Louisiana and my three grandkids, Sarah, Christian and Hannah," he says.

The origin of this special grape vine is unknown. Amato thinks it may have come from Germany since the property was once a plantation owned by a German family. Now, the plant has proven its roots are really here in the fertile soil of Tangipahoa parish.

Henry Amato says he has enough of the special grapes to make some wine for tasting. He's hopeful it will have nice flavor.

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