The Frontenac family continues to grow. Just like the famous 'Pinot' group, versions of Frontenac with noir (dark blue), gris (grey), and blanc (white or colorless) fruit have appeared.
The original 'Frontenac', introduced by the University of Minnesota in 1996, is a dark blue-fruited cultivar originating from a cross of Vitis riparia x Landot 4511. 'Frontenac gris' was discovered in a University of Minnesota test vineyard as a naturally occurring, single bud mutation of Frontenac back in 1992. 'Frontenac gris' produces pigment (anthocyanins) only in the outer layers of cells of the berry, just under the skin, giving the berry a grey or bronze color and producing a white or slightly pigmented wine.
More recently, several growers in Minnesota and Canada have independently discovered white-fruited mutations of Frontenac and Frontenac gris that have now come to be known as 'Frontenac blanc'. These Frontenac blanc lines lack pigment and make white wine.
This is an exciting new development for cold climate growers. Frontenac has proven to be an outstanding vine and Frontenac gris shows exactly the same vine growth and disease resistance traits. We have every reason to expect that to be true of Frontenac blanc as well. This will make it easy to manage with the same cultural practices as Frontenac and Frontenac gris.
Initial trial vinifications of Frontenac blanc indicate that it produces wines that are distinctly different from Frontenac gris in flavor and aroma. The University of Minnesota plans to evaluate and characterize Frontenac blanc lines as they are made available and nurseries intend to sell Frontenac blanc in 2012.