aka Criolla (Arg.), Listan Prieto (Esp.), Palomino Negro (Esp.), Pais (Chile)


Mission grapes received their name because they were most often found growing at missions in Mexico and California.  For years the original European strain connected to the Mission grapes was unknown.  DNA researchers determined that the Mission grape was a match to the grape Listan Prieto from Spain.  Listan serves as another name for the Palomino grape variety, which is a white grape used to make Sherry.  Prieto stands for “dark or black.”  Mission grapes also have cousin varieties in Argentina (Criolla), and Chile (red Pais) as well.

It is assumed that during the middle of the 1500s, Catholic Missionaries transported the original Mission grape vines from Spain to Mexico.  The grape was cultivated in Mexico for close to a century before it was taken north a few centuries later.

Places It Is Grown

Listan Prieto grapes used to be widely cultivated in the region of Castile in Spain during the 16th century.  The heyday of the grape ended in the 19th century when the pest, phylloxera, destroyed much of Spanish viticulture.  Today, the grape is mostly uncommon across Spain.  The grape is still being produced with success in Spain’s Canary Islands.  There the grape is better known as Palomino Negro.  As mentioned above, the grape is also found in Argentina and Chile.

After moving north from Mexico in the 18th century, the Mission grape defined California viticulture.  For well over a century, it was basically the entirety of viticulture in California.  Today the grape barely exists as a varietal, and is most commonly found being used as an un-fermented juice blended with brandy to produce ‘Angelica’.

Mission grape vines that remain in the wine making landscape are grown primarily in the Central Valley and around the foothills of Los Angeles.  The grape also exists in Texas and New Mexico.  Missionaries brought those states the grape sometime during the early 17th century.  At an unspecified time the Mission grape was also taken to Illinois.

Properties Of Grape

Mission grapes are recorded as the oldest grape cultivated in the United States.  It is the original grape variety that was planted by missionaries in North America.  It was grown by missionaries as the ingredient used to make sacramental wine.  While genetically very close to the grape Listan Prieto, Mission grapes have undergone mutation and/or hybridization over the years.  The Mission grape is also closely related to the pink Criolla grape of Argentina and the red País grape of Chile.

Mission grapes once dominated the Californian wine landscape.  Characteristics of the grape are its hardiness, vine vigor and strength, and productivity.  Other attributes included thick trunks with strong canes and large, dark green leaves.  Fruit clusters grow large and are loosely filled which allows the ripe fruit to hang for a longer time while it develops higher sugar levels.  The design of the loose clusters also help the grapes resist mold and rot.

Mission grape vines are great producers.  Able to adapt to a variety of climates, Mission grapes do best in warm climates.  Warmth and fertile soils help the vines produce a crop of over ten tons per acre.  The grape ripens during mid-to-late season.

Mission grapes are used to make table wine and fortified wines such as Angelica.  Table wine made from Mission grapes has the reputation of lacking any character.  As a result, use of Mission grapes in wine making has decreased.  Most notable are the grape’s attributes of producing a weak color, bland flavor and poor acidity.  Even though Mission grapes are dark-skinned, resulting red wines carry a very light-color.  In white wines there is usually a brownish-tone.  Today, effective vineyard management and improvements in wine making techniques have allowed for better quality wines to be produced from Mission grapes.   Usually made in a simple style, wines made from Mission grapes tends to be inexpensive.

When used to make Angelica, Mission grapes have been able to make something of themselves.  Angelica, a mixture of brandy and un-fermented Mission grape juice, is fortified wine that has a following.  Older Angelica wines dating from the 1800s are still being sold and offer great flavor and body.

Partnering With Food

Rule #1: Matching the alcohol level and body of the wine to the heaviness of the food should make for a proper pairing every time.

Due to the low acidity and lighter body in the wine produced from Mission grapes, a meal of equal lightness should be paired for a good result.  As a brandy and fortified wine, feel free to enjoy your drink alone as an aperitif or with a equally sweet and fruity dessert.

Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with the different types of wine made from Mission grapes:

  • Gourmet Nuts
  • Tiramisu
  • Sorbet
  • Italian Ice
  • Tapas
  • Roast Chicken w/ Seasoned Potatoes
  • Chicken Tortillas
  • Veggie Empanadas
  • Calamari
  • Melon and Proscuitto di Parma

Restaurants With These Types of Dishes

To view restaurants that serve appetizers, entrees and other dishes that partner well with this grape type, click here….

About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.

Leave a Reply