Mission grapes are a variety
of Vitis vinifera introduced
from Spain to the
western coasts of North and South America in the 1500s by Catholic missionaries for use in
making sacramental wine, table and fortified wine.
European strain, until recently, had been lost, thus the grapes'
being named "Mission grapes" since the Catholic missions are where
they were generally grown. The grape was introduced to California in the eighteenth century by Franciscan missionaries.
Until about 1850,
Mission grapes, or Criolla
, represented the entirety of
; at the present time, however,
Mission represents less than 1000 acres (4 km²) of total plantings
in the entire state. Most of the state's remaining plantings are
in the Gold Country, the Central
Valley, and Southern
Red and white wine, sweet and dry wine, brandy, and a fortified
wine called Angelica
were all produced from Mission
grapes. Though Mission grape vines are heavy producers and can
adapt to a variety of climates, table
made from the fruit tends to be rather characterless, and
thus its use in wine making has diminished in modern times. However
as both contemporary accounts and those of the last two centuries
attest, Angelica, the fortified wine made from the grape, is
sometimes a wine of note and distinction. The Mission grape is
related to the pink Criolla grape of
Argentina and the red País
grape of Chile.
In December 2006, Spanish scholars from the Centro Nacional de
Biotecnología in Madrid, uncovered the name and origin of the
mysterious Mission grape, as well as which were the earliest
European vines grown in the Americas. Their findings are due to
appear in the journal of the American Society of Enology and
Viticulture. The scholars determined that the Mission grape's DNA
matched a little-known Spanish variety called Listan
is another name for
Palomino, a primary white grape used to make Sherry.
means "dark or black".
Widely cultivated in 16th century Castile
, Listan Prieto is now uncommon in
Spain. In Spain's Canary Islands, where it is known as
it is widely cultivated. Scholars
believe the grape's heyday ended in Spain when phylloxera
destroyed much Spanish viticulture in
the 19th century.