It's not likely to be a wine you'd find at very many North American wineries - and that's precisely my reason for making dry, oaked varietal Concord.
In an earlier post I went into detail about how I first made dry Concord in 2002 from scratch using the best Concords I could get. With each vintage it has become clear to me that to make fine wine from labrusca grapes it's necessary to avoid all manner of "bad advice" that's been standard practise for too long - dilution of the must and copious sweetening with cane sugar in particular. Those methods will not produce quality wine; at best they will make a passable wine from overcropped fruit. The unspoken premise seems to be exactly that: Concord is deemed to be so acidic as to require such adulteration. Like sound bytes, these views get repeated ad infinitum and develop a certain inertia - yet if one cares enough to look beneath the surface, there is more to the story than meets the palate.
Since so much of wine quality depends on what happens in the vineyard, it follows that just as with any other grape variety, Concord too will benefit from common-sense techniques like maintaining an open canopy and partial green-harvesting after fruit set. These techniques require a hands-on approach, just as one would expect at a meticulously managed estate winery: the problem is that labrusca grapes, generally, are simply not grown in that manner.
That said, I did manage to find an impressively well tended labrusca vineyard in the western Niagara Peninsula. The vines had an open canopy with fruit well exposed to the sun; the sugar/acid balance was impressive, and the flavour was ripe and vinous; there was no sourness or other harshness that in any way hinted at a need for "amelioration" - a hydrometer reading of the must simply confirmed that the sugar needed to be bumped up prior to fermentation to get the desired alcohol level of 12-13% by volume. But this is normal with Concord: it's not a high sugar accumulator, though many of its labrusca hybrid brethren like Steuben, Delaware and Valiant certainly are.
Manual sorting and de-stemming were followed by crush and a 24-hour pectic enzyme soak on the skins; this was then followed by pressing, retention of a portion of the skins, innoculation with Lalvin EC-1118 "Prise de Mousse" yeast and a measured addition of yeast nutrient. Fermentation ran to completion with no problems and the wine was pressed off the skins and racked into sterilized carboys. Once clear, the wine was again racked into gallon jugs - some with medium-toast French oak shavings, some without any oak at all. The wine was left like this at basement temperature for four weeks and then was transferred to the garage for cold stabilization. Once the tartrate deposit formed, coating the oak shavings which had earlier fallen to the bottom, the wine was carefully siphoned into sterilized 750-ml bottles and the bottles were closed with natural cork.
In the glass, the wine shows a deep, translucent scarlet-ruby hue with a slight blue-garnet tinge. The nose is vinous Concord grape juice coupled with wild strawberry and hints of acacia flowers. There isn't a lot of muskiness on the nose here, something I think might be explained by the good sun exposure that these particular grapes received. The oaked version of the wine had all the same aromas framed by sweet toasty oak - an unusual, but ultimately harmonious combination. On the palate the wines are crisp and light-bodied with tart but not sour acidity; flavour replays follow from the nose. Both wines show some grape tannins too: they're short and the acidity carries the structure. In the oaked version, however, toasty oak flavours not only round out the finish but also add a kind of cohesive astringency.
The final conclusion? Wood tannins do work well in dry Concord!