Professor Bruce Reisch led the team that created the new Concord-type grape. Matt Steecker / Staff video, Cornell photos
Talk about great grapes.
A grape variety nearly two decades in the making by a Cornell agriculture team produces fruit twice the size of Concords, those jelly- and jam-making stalwarts.
After the team envisioned a new breed of fruit in 1998 and planted seeds the following year in Geneva, grapes twice the size of Concords fruited from vines in 2001.
The variety has been field-tested since then, and now the project led by Professor Bruce Reisch is drawing to its conclusion — in the form of a grape variety currently called NY98.0228.02 that could have a future across our region.
“There was no ‘eureka’ moment,” said Reisch, who is a professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Every year it has been gratifying to see new results from new seedlings and to hear reactions of people when they try them for the first time. When we created a large berry that tasted great, there was a thrill there.”
Each of the blue Concord-like seedless table grapes weighs about 5 to 6 grams, significantly larger than a 3-gram Concord grape, which are commonly used to make jellies, jams and juices. The taste is similar to a Concord, too, but this grape follows the fruit industry’s trend of creating larger, appealing berries that virtually pop out to the consumer. Such big berries also are being created in California and Chile, Reisch said.
New York State produced the third-highest amount of grapes within the country in 2015, according to database company Statista. New York produced 145,000 tons of grapes, trailing California’s powerhouse production of 6,847,000 tons and Washington State’s production of 419,000 tons.
The Cayuga White, released in 1972, was the first wine grape from the Cornell grape breeding program and accounts for more than $20 million in wine production annually in New York, according to the Cornell Chronicle.
The program’s newest grape variety — there are 58 in all — has other positive qualities beyond its size and taste: It has a good tolerance for cold weather and is more disease-resistant than certain other kinds of grapes, Reisch said. The grapes are suitable to be grown across the region as well as in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, but can be adapted to other locations as well.
The grape is ideal for fruit-picking locations, vine stands, backyard gardens, farmers markets and can be sold at local stores if they are quickly taken there, Reisch said.
Like all fruits, the grape has one shortcoming: It’s not good for shipping and storage, Reisch said.
Grapevines will be sold in the winter exclusively at Double A Vineyards in Fredonia, Reisch said. NY98.0228.02 will be exclusively licensed to Double A Vineyards for 10 years in the U.S., then it will be non-exclusively available for licensing, according to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.
Reisch said it may take a while until the grapes appear at pick-your-own locations, vine stands or farmers markets.
Since joining Cornell’s faculty in 1980, Reisch has led a team that released 14 of Cornell’s 58 grape varieties, according to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The university’s grape-breeding program started in 1888.
Reisch said his work has expanded upon the work of his predecessors, who created grape varieties that are the ancestors of the new grapes Reisch and his team created.
The newest grape is the first seedless grape in 20 years for Reisch’s team. It has features similar to a Concord grape and has Concord ancestry, but is a stand-alone variety, Reisch said.
Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics
Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, collecting grapevine leaf samples for DNA testing. (Photo: Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
Most of the grapes Reisch’s team have created have been wine grapes.
While the grapes have been grown, tested and tasted, Reisch still has some work left ahead of him: The new fruit needs a name.
There is a public contest to name the new grape. Submissions can be made online at hort.cals.cornell.edu/content/name-grape or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org until July 31. Reisch and Double A Vineyards will pick their favorites and present these names to the public for a final vote in September.
The name will be announced in October. First-, second- and third-place vote-getters will receive prizes.
The first-place prize is $100 from Double A Vineyards, a padfolio and a pen with a Center for Technology Licensing logo and a cutting board with the Cornell University logo. The second-place winner will receive $50 from Double A Vineyards, a padfolio and a pen with the CTL logo and an apron with the Cornell logo.The third-place prize is $25 from Double A Vineyards, a padfolio and pen with the CTL logo and a ceramic mug with the Cornell logo.
Reisch said he has received more than 600 names already and is expecting to get more than 1,000 name suggestions.
“The public can be creative,” Reisch said. “With 7,000 to 8,000 grape varieties, coming up with a name not used before is not easy.”
In 2012, a contest to name two new wine grapes created by Reisch’s team resulted in more than 1,100 suggestions from around the world, according to the Cornell Chronicle. Reisch and his team chose the names Arandell and Aromella, both being words that combine the “ell” in Cornell with characteristics of the grapes.
Some of the most well-known names for varieties of table and wine grapes include Cardinal, Niagara and Merlot. Other names that are lesser known in the country include Gewürztraminer, Ruby Roman, Viognier and Gamay. If you are considering submitting a name and would like to see if it already exists, you can check the National Grape Registry created by the University California, Davis at http://ngr.ucdavis.edu/varietylist.cfm.
source: Ithaca Journal