Cornell University has released two new wine grape varieties—a cold-hardy aromatic white variety and a red variety that is highly resistant to fungal diseases.
The two releases offer new characteristics not previously available to growers and wineries, particularly producers in New York’s Finger Lakes region, says Bruce Reisch, Cornell grape breeder. Since Reisch joined Cornell in 1980, nearly a dozen grape varieties have been released. The breeding program is focused on developing wine varieties and has strong emphasis on selecting quality varieties that are disease resistant and cold tolerant.
The new white variety Aromella is a progeny of Traminette and Ravat 34 and has been in testing since 1983. The variety produces aromatic white wines that range from floral to Muscat in flavor. Aromella is very winter hardy. Tests showed 50 percent bud kill at around -16°F. No trunk damage has been observed, and vines remained productive even after winter lows of -15° to -16°F.
Aromella has moderate resistance to downy and powdery mildews. Clusters are long and loose, and berries ripen midseason. Own-rooted vines are large with a semitrailing growth habit. Fruit yield averaged around 7.5 tons per acre in small-scale trials.
Juice analysis of more than 30 juice lots produced from 1995 to 2012 showed a pH of 3.0, titratable acidity of 12.1 grams perliter, and 19.5° Brix, on average. Aromella is recommended for use in aromatic, Muscat white wines, as a varietal or blend.
Arandell is a midseason red wine grape variety with a high degree of natural disease resistance. It is from a 1995 cross and is the first named variety to come out of Cornell’s no-spray block established by Reisch in the late 1980s. Arandell is highly resistant to powdery mildew, downy mildew, and botrytis bunch rot. Even under heavy disease pressure, symptoms are rarely seen, though both mildews have been observed on foliage late in the season. Botrytis bunch rot has never affected more than 2 percent of fruit harvested. It is still moderately susceptible to black rot and phomopsis.
Over a three-year period, average yields were six tons per acre for grafted vines and four tons for own-rooted vines planted on a 9- by 7-foot spacing. However, yields reached as high as eight tons per acre in grafted vines, suggesting that cluster thinning may be necessary some years.
Vines of Arandell are moderately winter hardy. Tests of midwinter primary bud hardiness showed 50 percent bud kill at around -13°F. Limited trunk damage has been noted after winter lows of -15° to -16°F, but without crown gall disease.
Research wines produced from Arandell are densely colored with light to moderate tannins and have notes of dark berry fruit, tobacco, and hints of black pepper or cedar on the finish. Brix at harvest averaged 19.5. The pH level averaged 3.3 and titratable acidity 105 grams per liter.
Arandell has potential as a variety for organic viticulture. Growers should be able to produce clean, ripe fruit with a minimal spray program, Reisch said.
The names came from a name-that-grape contest by Cornell that started as an e-mail to grape extension and research colleagues, was featured in the Cornell Chronicle newspaper, and then went viral. The story was picked up by local and national news media, and mentioned on the National Public Radio Morning Edition and Bon Appétit magazine online, as well as in several wine blogs. The result was more than 1,100 name suggestions from the United States and other countries. Arandell was suggested by a wine enthusiast from Alaska and is a combination of the Spanish word “arándano” for blueberry and “ell” for Cornell. A winemaker from California coined the name for Aromella.
Vines can be purchased from licensed nurseries. Virus-tested cuttings may be obtained from Foundation Plant Services at the University of California, Davis. E-mail email@example.com for a list of licensed nurseries.