The Viticulture and Enology Program at Cornell University assists the New York’s wine and grape industry by providing research-based technology, extension and education at undergraduate and graduate levels.
A Story of Success
Over the last 30 years, 258 new wineries have opened in New York State, which are located in eight viticultural regions. The wine and grape industry contributes nearly $500 million in gross sales to the New York economy. The Cornell Viticulture and Enology Program provides information to the wine and grape industries which allows them to produce very high quality, internationally competitive wines. Researchers provide answers to what cultivars can be grown, how to grow them, how to manage pests, soils, and water, how grapes should be managed to achieve desired flavor maturity, what wine flavor profile can be expected, and how consistent wine quality can be achieved. Research in the chemistry and biochemistry of grape flavor ripening and the translation of these grape flavors into wine flavors is being explored.
- Programs at Cornell have helped to identify key wine grape varieties for New York State and to develop wines of unique and high quality from signature varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, and, more recently, Cabernet Franc and Lemberger.
- Of the 56 grapes developed and released since 1906 by Cornell, nine have been wine grapes. They include Cayuga White, Chardonel, Traminette, Melody, Horizon, GR7, Noiret, Corot noir, and Valvin Muscat. Forty-seven have been dessert or juice grapes.
- New projects linking plant physiology with flavor chemistry and grape genomics help growers and winemakers understand the processes of flavor maturation.
- On the wine processing side, enologists at Cornell study microorganisms and their physiological potential to direct flavor development during wine production.
- Problems and opportunities in the New York wine industry are explored in almost daily communication among members of the Cornell Enology Extension Program and grape growers and winemakers in NY. Research and industry members exchange information in close communication via personal visits, industry workshops, newsletters, and the web.
- Wineries and vineyards offer unique opportunities for economic development in New York, from Long Island’s North Shore, to the Hudson Valley, to the Finger Lakes, to Lake Erie and the Niagara Escarpment. The wine industry in New York has grown from nine wineries in 1976 to 273 in 2009. New York wineries have experienced 10%-15% growth in each of the past 10 years.
- The retail value of all wine produced in New York is estimated to be $1.1 billion. More and more of the grape production is shifting from lower-value juice grapes to high-value wine grapes ( Concord grapes sell for $145 to $450 per ton, Riesling for $1,400 to $1,700 per ton).
- The number of wineries has grown, as has the number of employees employed in each winery. Current estimates are that 23,000 people are employed directly in the grape, grape juice, wine products and related industries.
- The wine industry has an enormous impact on the rural and state economy. With the growth in tourism (about 5 million visitors) and growth in associated service industries, the economic impact on the state is $6 Billion.
- With improved knowledge of grape cultivation and wine production, the industry will be able to expand wine grape plantings and produce more wines of distinct quality that can compete nationally and internationally.
- Grape growers and wine producers benefit directly from Cornell programs, and consumers and the service industry benefit indirectly.
- The wine and grape industry also maintains a very attractive cultural landscape with more than 34,000 acres of vineyards, open spaces, and forests (as part of the wine estates) that enhance the natural beauty of New York’s grape growing regions.
- New York is America’s #3 grape and wine producer.