Spanish Mission Grapes and Wine
Departing from my usual posts, this post will be a brief treatment of the Spanish Mission grape. Today, there are several wines made in Texas (and more in California) from the “Black Spanish Mission Grape.” Where did the grape come from though? Botanists have traced the dna structure of what is now known as “Spanish Mission” grapes to two sub-varieties which originated in Spain. Listan Negro (“Black Listan”) and Listan Prieto (“Dark Listan”). Both varietals originated sometime in the 1600’s in Castile-La Mancha. Listan Prieto was then later cultivated in the Canary Islands, at the time a Spanish possession off the coast of Africa, past which most Spanish Navy ships would pass on their way to the New World. Later the grapes would come to be called “mission grapes”, “Pais” or “Criolla” depending on whether you were in California, Chile or Argentina. All are from the same origin, however. Pais having a lighter pinkish color and Criolla being the darker of the two.
In Argentina, it is believed that the Spanish Mission (or “criolla”) grape would be crossed with Muscat of Alexandria to produce the Torrontes grape which is probably Argnetina’s most important white winemaking grape today.
Several attempts have been made to produce wines from this grape in Texas, following in the footsteps of the Spanish Missionaries who first grew it and made both sacramental wine as well as fortified Angelica wine from the grape.
We are certain now that the grape originated in Spain, that it belongs to the Species Vitis Vinifera (the wine grape) and it is not a “fruit” or “table” grape. As to the quality of wines being produced here in Texas or elsewhere, I leave that to your taste and judgment.