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Manual of the Vine (Classic Reprint)

Manual of the Vine (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Manual of the Vine

Until recently, from our own hardy native production, we have not been able to realize the aptness and force of those living illustrations in the word of light and life, where the vine is used to give a notion of something more joyous and good than language has yet been rich enough to symbolize. Vines of spontaneous growth are abundant throughout the whole Indian-corn growing region of our country. We have varieties innumerable, many of them so characteristically different, that by botanists they have been considered distinct species, producing fruit which ripens at all periods, from the middle of August to the first of November, and of every hue from amber green (or "white") to intense black. But north of Mason & Dixon's line none of them have given fruit of such excellence as to excite any sympathy with those outbursts of gladness which Pagans and Christians in the vine-growing regions of Europe have always manifested at the approach of the grape season.

At the South, especially in Carolina and Georgia, some very excellent varieties are grown to considerable extent, of which the Herbemont may be taken as a type. This variety had received but little notice until more fully introduced by Mr. N. Herbemont, I believe about the year 1825, who was a zealous pioneer in wine-making. The "Original Herbemont's Madeira," is still growing at Columbus, South-Carolina.

The origin of the Isabella is also claimed for South-Carolina, although no trace of it is now found growing wild. Its introduction marks a long stride in American grape-growing. Wherever it has become established, northern seedlings have, perforce of great inferiority, at once disappeared from cultivation, and multitudes, whose taste. were not too nice, have found enjoyment in well-ripened Isabella grapes - some even consider the pungency and aroma of its skin an excellence, while others characterize it as offensive foxiness.

About twenty years later the introduction of the Catawba by Major Adlum famished a grape of much higher character than Isabella, but not able to ripen so far north by nearly a degree of latitude. Both for table and wine, it was a decided step onward. Still something better was desired and earnestly looked for; and twenty years later the announcement of a "hardy early grape, better than Isabella and Catawba," was received with expectant pleasure, and placed the name of Mrs. Diana Crehore among those who will be gratefully remembered.

At about the same time, a "small grape of surpassing beauty and most excellent flavor," attracted the attention of Mr. A. Thomson of Delaware, Ohio, and was exhibited by him at the County Fairs, under the name of the "Heath Grape;" a few years later, after becoming fully assured of its great value, he introduced it to the public under the name of Delaware. But its great excellence proved a hindrance to its dissemination, for it was claimed that no grape of such high excellence could be of American origin.

Mr. Thomson had become intimately acquainted with the characteristics of foreign vines, from those growing in his own house as well as from extensive observation, and never doubted as to the native origin of the Delaware, but was too modest to make strenuous efforts to vindicate his opinions, although he never failed positively to assert his convictions. In consequence of various hindrances and discouragements, he did not vigorously undertake its propagation, and therefore it had little opportunity to make itself generally known as the American grape, but in the mean while, its character for beauty and excellence has not deteriorated, and in size of bunch and berry, it has greatly Increased as opportunity for development has been afforded.

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