Cornell University Holds Contest to Name New Grape Varietals

Could your dream wine grape name win?

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

If you’ve ever thought it would be awesome to name a grape for wine, now you can try your hand at it. Bruce Reisch, horticulture professor at Cornell University, has bred two new varieties of grapes, a white and red, and is asking the public to help naming them. 

So far, more than 100 people, from as far away as Australia and Scandinavia, have submitted their ideas for names to replace the scientific names of the grapes: NY76.0844.24, for the white, and NY95.0301.01, for the dark red. It’s not as simple as slapping some wine-y sounding names together, though, Reisch comments. The names need to be evocative of the taste and unique characteristics of these varieties. Names can’t sound too familiar, but they must be easy to pronounce and make the drinker think of something positive. While that might not seem like such a heady task, with over 7,000 grape names already taken, it’s not for the unimaginative.

To help on your grape-naming mission, brief descriptions of each grape variety have been released. The dark red one is the first to be made available from the "no spray" vineyard, an organic variety that was initially developed in 1995. The red grape is described to have a hint of blueberry (which may be a good summer wine). The white variety was made to stand up to colder winter temperature and has good year-round productivity. The white grape is descibed as "citrusy" and "aromatic."

These aren’t the first releases to come from Cornell’s program, which has been producing grapes since 1888 and has released 56 varieties so far. While they haven’t all been blockbuster wine hits, the university’s most famous grape, Cayuga White, makes up more than $20 million of wine production in New York state. Reisch hopes that this contest will help to publicize the new grapes and get people to buy them. Any ideas? You have until Monday to come up with your masterpiece.