New Grapes From Cornell Debut

GENEVA, N.Y. -- Wrestling with New York's cool climate is the pain and the glory of their profession for the region's winemakers and grape growers. Much of the Finger Lakes' increasing reputation for good wine over the past decade is because the region's microclimate is similar to the fine grape growing regions of Germany and France. But whether or not grapes will survive sudden hard freezes, or temperatures that plummet by as much as 70 degrees as they did in just 12 hours last January, are questions of bottom-line survival. It can take 20 to 30 years of careful breeding, testing, and evaluation before a variety is ready for release. New grapes that have been bred for the climate are eagerly anticipated.

Under the leadership of Bruce Reisch, Professor of Grape Genetics in Cornell University's Department of Horticultural Sciences at the Geneva Agriculture Experiment Station, two new "cool climate" grape varieties are ready to make their debut. They will make their official entrance at a "name and release" party at the International Symposium on Cool Climate Viticulture & Enology, in Rochester, on July 16.

Traminette is a vinifera-type wine grape. Marquis is a table grape. Both are white hybrids that combine excellent fruit quality with cold-hardiness derived from American species. They are able to stand up to short Northeastern growing seasons and exhibit some disease resistance.

Growers were instrumental in both the testing and the naming process. Until they are released, grapes are referred to by number only. A name can make or break a grape's commercial acceptance. "A bad name can hamper a good grape," said Reisch, who won the New York Wine & Grape Foundation's annual Research Award in April.

Robert Pool and the late John Einset, of Geneva, project leaders for the grape breeding program at Geneva prior to 1980, were active in the early development of both new varieties. Reisch has released three white wine grapes -- Chardonel, M

Contact: Linda McCandless
Cornell University News Service

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