Vidal Blanc….more than just for dessert wines


Early March always brings the release of ice wines in northeast Ohio.  A cluster of wineries east of Cleveland, most in the Grand River Valley, attract tens of thousands of visitors to sip this luscious dessert wine during the first three Saturdays of the month.  The majority of these ice wines are made using the French-American hybrid, Vidal Blanc.

Vidal’s tough skin and large cluster and it sturdy character make it a perfect grape to hang on the vine for weeks beyond the normal harvest season … and its intense fruit flavors and aromas provide the depth and character so important in our ice wines.  However, the variety makes a lovely still table wine.  And as spring approaches, it can be a wonderful one to serve as the weather turns warmer. 

Rather than being one of the French hybrids developed in the 19th century to combat phyloxxera [a root louse that devastated French vineyards of the day], it was introduced in France about 1930 by a breeder named Jean Louis Vidal.  He was looking for a wine to produce Cognac and he had some commercial success with the grape.

It was imported to the eastern United States and Canada in the middle of the 20th century though, because of its winter hardiness.  Industry pioneer, Phillip Wagner of Boordy Vineyards in Maryland was among the first to tout its attributes to eastern growers.  

Vidal has a vey floral nose with grapefruit and pineapple notes. Its high acids are balanced by intense sugars so most Vidal table wines are finished with a hint of sweetness.

Vidal Blanc was widely planted by Ohio winemakers in the eighties and nineties to attract an emerging regional palate to some well make off-dry white wines.  The hardy, large clustered grapes produce an aromatic wine that some compare to the better-known vigonier.   It grows well in our cool climate and is hardy enough to survive all but the most severe of winters.


The finished table wine from Vidal Blanc is delightful – and appeals to a wide range of wine lovers – from the most experienced to those very new to the world of wine.  Because of its versatility Vidal would be a perfect selection for your spring picnic or first party on the back deck when guests of all levels of sophistication gather in an informal atmosphere.

Here is a great recipe to serve with this wonderful wine.  Make sure you choose some good quality stemware, add some crusty bread dipped in olive oil:  Casual elegance with little fuss. 

Crab and Avocado Salad with Fresh Grapefruit

2 avocados, cut in half lengthwise, pits removed

½ pound jumbo lump crab meat, shells removed

1 head bibb lettuce, cut into ¼ wide strips

1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Grapefruit Vinaigrette or a little Vidal Blanc wine

In a stainless steel bowl, gently toss the crab, lettuce, grapefruit and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and just enough vinaigrette or wine to coat the ingredients. Serve over avocado.

For additional information:

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About the author:

Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association...


Donniella Winchell