ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It took over four decades for a Cornell University grape breeder to create Aravelle, a white wine grape. But what’s so special about it?
Bruce Reisch, the breeder, created this hybrid grape by crossing Cayuga white and Riesling grapes back in 1981, when his career began, according to Cornell University.
Reisch debuted Aravelle at the Business, Enology and Viticulture (B.E.V.) NY 2023 conference in Syracuse.
Cayuga white, one of the two grapes that went into making Aravelle, was a grape that was developed at Cornell as well, back in 1972.
Cayuga White is “relatively resistant against bunch rot and mildew diseases, easy to grow and very productive when it ripens in early to mid-September,” said Cornell.
Thus, helping Aravelle have those traits and the qualities of Riesling grapes. However, Riesling grapes are still in danger of fruit rot during wet periods.
It usually takes Reisch more than 18 years to breed new grapes.
Before the white wine grape Aravelle, it was deemed ‘New York 81,’ and at the time, growers testing NY 81 were beginning to lose interest.
Until they realized something.
“As we were beginning to lose interest in NY 81, growers came back to us and said, ‘This is much more rot resistant than Riesling,’ so we began to look at that more closely,” Reisch said.
Since there was less rot, there was also less of a rush to harvest the grapes as soon as a rot appeared during wet harvest seasons.
Grape breeding requires years of testing and patience to find what works.
“Thousands of seedlings may be planted each year, with each one representing a potential new variety. These seedlings are tested for five to eight years, and the best are propagated to make six new vines having the desired traits,” said Khrishna Ramanujan, in the full story with the Cornell Chronicle.
After many years, if the grapes are looking good, the vines are sent off to be propagated and planted in nurseries.
In this instance, the vines were sent to two partner New York nurseries. Those nurseries then shared the test vines with interested vineyards.
Reisch and colleagues who worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension began to produce enough fruit for winemaking.
After three years and creating polls on different names, Aravelle — meaning “grace, favor, answers to prayers” — became official.
“New plantings will take three to four years and then another year to release to the market. A few vineyards, which planted NY 81 vines years ago for test purposes, could produce a labeled Aravelle wine next year,” according to Cornell.