The Outer Banks, Grapes, and the Lost Colony

There is a grape that is native to the Outer Banks, actually the entire southeastern United States, that is so well adapted to this environment that is will not grow anywhere else in the world. The muscadine grape is absolutely ubiquitous around here–the picture of grapes with this blog was taken this morning along Moor Shore Drive in Kitty Hawk, as an example. However, efforts to transplant the grape anywhere else in the world have failed.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Lost Colony?

As it turns out, the colonists noted a trellised grape vine on Roanoke Island and those notes were part of the information that was sent back to England. There is very little doubt that it was the Native Americans who were trellising the vine, since there are no grapes native to Great Britain and the colonists had no experience with viticulture.

At the exact same location there is still an ancient vine producing grapes. The grapes are scuppernongs–a golden skin variety of the muscadine. It is called the Mother Vine and is located on Mother Vine Road as you head out of Manteo. If it is the original vine–and there is considerable evidence that it is–it is over 430 years old.

Muscadine grapes in general have a very thick skin, relatively large seeds and a wonderful sweet earthy flavor. Wines are made from them–Sweet Serenity from Sanctuary Vineyards is a particular favorite.

Although usually a sweet to semi-sweet wine, the grape can produce a dryer flavor.

Tyrell from Vineyards on the Scuppernong in Columbia is an excellent example of what can be done with a dry red muscadine wine.