The Future of Wine: Five New Wine Varieties You Should Watch Out For
Climate change is revolutionizing the wine industry as we know it. As the promise of a continued drought threatens to dry out California Wine Country, industry experts are suggesting a seismic shift of sorts – shift production to other regions or trade in traditional wine grapes for more heat-tolerant varieties. Colder wine regions are forced to employ the same mindset as frost, mildew, and rot attack their vines. Now, transporting entire vineyards to a more fecund region is possible, but it’s hardly the most cost-effective measure. This is why many winemakers are opting to change grapes instead.
In New Zealand, students of the new viticulture and winemaking course in the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology have been tasked with finding wine varieties that will flourish in the country’s cold climate. Currently, the class is experimenting with growing St. Laurent, Muscat a Petit Grains, Verdelho, Lagrein, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay. In the last decade, we’ve also seen the rise of experimental vine growing stations like Radmilovac, which studied the ampelographic characteristics of new wine varieties like Jagodinka, Srpski Rubin, Tenturier of Kraina, Godominka, Kladovska White, and Tenturier of Zupa.
While the data gathered by these research programs are undoubtedly valuable, few programs have had the same impact as Cornell University’s Cornell-Geneva Grapevine Breeding and Genetics Program. When Cornell released its first wine grape, Cayuga White, in 1972, nobody could have foreseen the future success of this new wine variety. But today, Cayuga White accounts for $20 million of New York’s wine production. The program’s other release, the hybrid, Traminette, has also attained a certain level of fame after becoming Indiana’s signature wine.
Corot Noir (formerly NY70.0809.10
The Corot Noir is a red wine grape that was released by Cornell in July, 2006. The grape is a complex interspecific hybrid that resulted from the cross between Steuben and Seyve Villard 18-307. With its powerful, but silky tannin structure and generous cherry and berry notes, the Corot Noir varietal can be likened to a traditional vinifera-type wine. Unlike older red hybrids, wine produced from this grape doesn’t carry the usual aromas associated with hybrid grapes. Its distinct flavor makes this red wine an excellent accompaniment to hearty, meaty, and savory dishes.
Growing Corot Noir is also easier than growing traditional vinifera vines. This hybrid offers good resistance against botrytis rot and powdery mildew. Nearing harvest, cluster thinning may be required to prevent overcropping, which can lower the wine’s acidity. This grape is currently grown in Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, and some areas in South Dakota and Colorado.
Noiret (formerly NY73.0136.17)
The Noiret, pronounced as ‘nwahr-ay,’ is another Cornell red wine grape that was released in 2006. It was the product of a 1973 cross between the Steuben and the NY65.0467.08 grape. When it first came out, the Noiret immediately made news in the international wine scene. Not only was it an excellent varietal option for cold-climate wine growers, its soft structure and subtle savory elements also made it a great alternative to Petite Syrah and Pinot Noir.
Among the Noiret’s most distinctive wine traits is its deep, ruby red color, which hints at its underlying sweetness. Its wine is medium-bodied and very fruit-forward. We’re talking bold notes of choke cherries, black raspberries, blueberries, and poached plums. Balancing out the sweetness of the wine are piquant hints of green and black peppers. Its fine tannin structure gives this wine its silky smooth mouthfeel.
While you will find a sampling of Noiret varietals on the market, some vintners are saying they prefer to add this grape to a French blend. Its low acidity and soft tannin structure add softness and aging potential to the most austere of hybrid wines.
Arandell (formerly Dark Red NY95.0301.01)
Arandell wraps up our list of new red wine varietals. The grape was initially introduced in 1995, but Cornell fast-tracked its wine production because of its potential as one of the first organic ‘no spray’ wine varieties. It was released in 2013, alongside a white wine hybrid called Aromella.
Now, its name is a portmanteau of two words—Arándano (Spanish for cranberry, though sometimes used for blueberry), and Cornell. The first word alludes to the distinct blueberry notes in the wine, while the second honors the school that discovered the grape. As far as quality is concerned, this medium-bodied wine offers good structure, a clean and subtle aroma, and an appealing mouthfeel. These characteristics make it a great candidate for medium-bodied reds and rosé wines.
Because Arandell is incredibly disease-resistant and requires very little use of fungicides and pesticides, you can expect more and more vineyards to start growing this vine. Right now, you’ll find a handful of vineries in the Long Island Wine Country growing this hybrid grape.
Valvin Muscat (former NY62.0122.01)
When Cornell unveiled the Valvin Muscat in 2006, industry insiders were curious. A cross between two Muscats—the Muscat Ottonel and the Muscat du Moulin—could this hybrid be the next big dessert wine? All the traits of this wine grape point to a resounding yes. As a varietal, the Valvin Muscat makes for a highly aromatic, light, sweet, and refreshing Muscat wine. Floral notes of orange blossoms and hints of lemon and citrus zest lend the wine its long, clean finish. Dry varietals are perfect for savory dishes, while semi-dry Valvin Muscats are gorgeous when served with white meat and flavorful vegetarian fares.
Earlier this year, Hunt Country Vineyard’s Valvin Muscat 2013 was awarded gold in the 2015 Tasters Guild International Wine Judging Competition. If anything, this win shows the potential of this particular hybrid grape. If you’re a fan of Muscat wine, consider adding this rare Valvin to your collection.
Aromella (formerly NY76.0844.24)
Rounding up our list of future wine vault staples is the Aromella. This white wine grape is known for its productivity and winter-hardiness. It’s a cross between Vinifera and Labrusca grapes, so expect big flavors and heady aromas. Though not as sweet as your traditional Muscat, the Aromella is heavy on tropical fruit and peach notes. Its flavor allows vintners to produce a large array of tipples across the semi-dry to sweet wine spectrum. Like other semi-dry white wines, the Aromella is best paired with a lovely spread of cheese, fruits, and bread.
Right now, this grape is used as a blending component for sweet and white wines. But because of its distinct flavor, expect to see the emergence of an Aromella varietal within the next few years.
While we won’t be seeing hybrids outselling vinifera wines anytime soon, we do believe that the emergence of these varietals indicate necessary progress in the international wine industry. Beyond giving wine enthusiasts more options, these varietals are also allowing new wine regions to find their footing and discover their own wine identities. So the next time you come across a hybrid wine, give it a try. You might just find your next wine cellar favorite.