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A vigorous deciduous climber, with very woolly young shoots carrying a tendril or an inflorescence at every joint. Leaves thick-textured, unlobed, or three-lobed (sometimes deeply) towards the top; shallowly and irregularly toothed, broadly ovate or roundish, 3 to 7 in. wide and long, the base heart-shaped, upper surface dark green, becoming glabrous, lower one covered with rusty-coloured (at first whitish) wool; stalk more than half as long as the blade. Panicles 2 to 4 in. long. Berries globose, 2⁄3 in. in diameter, thick-skinned, dark purple with a musky or foxy aroma.
Native of eastern N. America from New England southwards; introduced in 1656. Of the wild grape vines of N. America this is the most important in an economic sense, and has produced more varieties cultivated for their fruit than any other. It is a vigorous species, and although it has not the least value as a fruiting vine in this country, it is worth growing for its fine foliage and luxuriant growth. It is distinguished by having a tendril or an inflorescence opposite each leaf.
The Labruscan viticultural varieties have been given the collective name V. labruscana Bailey. Mostly they derive from V. labrusca crossed with V. vinifera, though other N. American species may enter into the parentage of some. They are the varieties mainly used in eastern N. America for wine-making, but the wines of California are made from V. vinifera, as in Europe. The Labruscan wines have what is usually termed a ‘foxy’ flavour, and only a few British wine merchants list any.