- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

BUFFALO, N.Y. A new wine grape more than 50 years in the making is being called a healthy, hardy "working-man's red."
"The grape's time came," said Bruce Reisch, who helped breed the new Abundance variety at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, a world-renowned fruit-breeding center in the Finger Lakes.
The Abundance started from a 1947 cross between the Buffalo and Baco noir grapes, and survived decades of planting and testing to achieve its commercial status. It comes of age as red wine enjoys increasing popularity.
Though cultivating upwards of 6,000 seedlings at any given time, the station's breeders bring a select few to fruition about one every five to seven years. The last was the Traminette, a white variety that debuted in 1996.
"A day like this doesn't come along very often for us. It's very exciting," said Mr. Reisch as he named and released the vigorous new variety, previously known simply as GR 7. It made its debut at Viticulture 2003, the state grape industry's trade show.
In New York's burgeoning wine industry, the release of a new grape brings with it significant economic potential. A 1972 variety, the Cayuga white, for example, has been grown at the rate of 800 to 1,000 tons per year since the mid-1980s, Mr. Reisch said. That has meant $350,000 to $400,000 in income for growers selling to wineries, which turn it into $5 million worth of wine.
The economic promise of wine in a state losing in manufacturing and other areas has breeders determined to give winemakers the tools they need, Mr. Reisch said.
"Because sales of red wine have soared in recent years due to reputed health benefits, winemakers need a good red-wine grape to meet increased demand. Abundance can help them do that," he said.
Several studies have indicated that moderate red-wine consumption can help prevent heart disease.
The Abundance grape is praised by winemakers for its deep color, moderate acidity and cherry-berry flavor, as well as its ability to survive the cold, and resist the tomato and tobacco ringspot virus infections that plague other red varieties.
Michael Doyle, president of Pleasant Valley Wine Co., in Hammondsport, has been blending the Abundance into the winery's sparkling burgundy to tone down the stronger Concord flavors as well as a port for its pleasing color. Mr. Doyle's is among a handful of wineries that have been testing the grape.
"It comes off very well with sophisticated wine drinkers as well as everyday wine drinkers," Mr. Doyle said.
The Abundance is aptly named in that it produces a high yield of 5 tons to 7 tons per acre. The Traminette, by comparison, yields about four tons an acre.
Northeast grape growers face challenges not seen by their counterparts in the warmer, arid climes of California and elsewhere, including high humidity, a lot of rain and long, very cold winters.
"Cold hardiness is a real factor for us," said Mr. Reisch, who came up with the description of "working-man's red."

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