By Amanda Garris and Tim Martinson
Cornell Grape Breeder Bruce Reisch and enologist Anna Katharine Mansfield announced the release of two new wine grape varieties, Aromella and Arandell, at the Viticulture 2013 conference held in Rochester, New York, on February 7.
These two new cultivars are the latest in a line that stretches back to Cornell's first named variety in 1906, Goff, and joins recent wine grape introductions including Traminette (1996), Geneva Red (formerly GR7, 2003), and Corot Noir, Noiret, and Valvin Muscat (2006).
With thousands of existing wine grape varieties in existence – and over 40 grown in the Finger Lakes alone – why release these two new ones? The answer is that they offer new characteristics not previously available to growers and wineries, expanding the range of products available to the industry.
Since the 1980s the breeding program has focused on varieties that reduce the risk of winter damage in cool climate areas, combine winter hardiness with desired wine flavor attributes, and display high levels of disease resistance to fungal pathogens that affect production, especially in non-irrigated Eastern production areas with high rainfall.
So what do these new varieties offer?
(NY76.0844.24) A progeny of Traminette and Ravat 34 that was crossed in 1976 and has been in testing since the first wines were produced from a single vine in 1983. Producing aromatic white wines that range from 'floral' to 'muscat,' Aromella is highly winter hardy and productive, with own-rooted vines producing 25.4 lb/vine of fruit (about 7.5 T/acre) and pruning weights around 4 lb/vine.
Valvin Muscat produces wines with a similar range of muscat flavors, but Aromella is both more productive and more winter hardy. Detailed information is available in the release bulletin.
(NY95.0301.01) Resulted from a more recent cross made in 1995 and is the first named cultivar to come out of the 'no-spray' block that Reisch established in the late 1980s. It is highly resistant to powdery mildew, downy mildew, and Botrytis, and combines this disease resistance with good wine quality. It is still moderately susceptible to black rot and phomopsis, and while fungicides have never been applied in Cornell trials, growers should be able to produce clean, ripe fruit with a minimal spray program. It produces dark, red wines with clean berry aromas. Detailed information is available in the release bulletin.
Pre-release testing of these two new varieties has involved not only several years of vineyard observations, but also winemaking, starting with lots made from single vines, and later with larger lots of fruit, using a wide variety of yeasts and fermentation techniques. Winemaking recommendations are included in the Aromella and Arandell release bulletins.
Where did the names come from?
In naming new varieties, the breeding program strives for names that are unique, marketable, not already trademarked, easy to pronounce and conjure positive connotations. This time the program took a new approach to naming: crowdsourcing ideas. An appeal for ideas went first to colleagues before spreading to the global wine community (See Cornell's Name that Grape Contest Goes Viral in Appellation Cornell issue 10). Arandell—a portmanteau of "arándano," the Spanish word for blueberry, and the "ell" from Cornell—was suggested by Michael Fleischhauer, a retired computer analyst and wine enthusiast from Juneau, Alaska. Michael Borboa, the export winemaker at Bear Creek Winery in Lodi, California, who is also a songwriter, came up the name Aromella.
Arandell and Aromella are the 55thh and 56th grape varieties named by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and provide exciting new options for growers. Both varieties are available for purchase from nurseries licensed through the Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization (CCTEC) or as virus-tested cuttings from Foundation Plant Services. Also available at the CCTEC site are a Cornell grape variety comparison chart and *posters for Arandell and Aromella (*Editor's note: No longer available as of 2017).
A complete listing of Cornell varieties released since 1906 and their parentage is available on Bruce Reisch's grape breeding web site.
We gratefully acknowledge the funding provided by the USDA Viticulture Consortium-East, the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, and Federal Formula Funds through the Hatch Act. We thank the previous project leaders, Robert Pool and Thomas Henick-Kling for their contributions to the project, as well as technical support provided by Luann Preston-Wilsey, Patricia Wallace, Pam Raes, John Watson, and Mary-Howell Martens.
Amanda Garris is a freelance writer based in Geneva, NY and Tim Martinson is senior extension associate with the department of horticulture, based at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY.