North Carolina is the home of our nation's first cultivated grape. The earliest written account of the "White Grape," as it was called by our colonists, occurs in Giovanni de Verrazzano's logbook. Verrazzano, the Florentine navigator, who explored the Cape Fear River Valley for France in 1524, wrote that he saw "...Many vines growing naturally there. Grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater."
Sir Walter Raleigh's explorers, captains Phillip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe wrote in 1584, that the coast of North Carolina was "...so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them...in all the world, the like abundance is not to be found."
Of the bounteous store of natural gifts that have rolled forth upon the soil of North Carolina, few have been more celebrated than the scuppernong grape. It is a sport of the species Vitis rotundifolia, commonly called muscadine, which is native to the southern states and grows nowhere else save as an exotic.
The scuppernong variety of muscadine has a tough skin and is bronzy green in color, rather than black or purplish as its ancestors. To use traditional Tar Heel parlance, its size is "about that of a hog's eye." The fruit does not grow in conventional bunches, and when ripe, it can be readily shaken from its vine.
At first it was simply called the Big White Grape. The name scuppernong was not applied until after its choice qualities and immense productiveness became known in the Tidewater region of North Carolina. It came to particular notice in 1755 after one of the two local hunters penetrated the dense thickets surrounding it and "discovered" it in Tyrrell County, along the banks of a short stream, which was also called Scuppernong Lake.
In 2001, North Carolina named the scuppernong as the official state fruit.