ITHACA, N.Y. – After a novel naming challenge drew more than 1,000 suggestions from around the world, a Cornell University breeder has revealed the secret identities of two new wine grapes: ‘Arandell’ and ‘Aromella’.
Bruce Reisch, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, introduced the grapes at Viticulture 2013 in Rochester, N.Y., Feb. 7.
‘Arandell’ – a mash-up of “arandano,” the Spanish word for blueberry, and the “ell” from Cornell – is the first grape released from The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station’s “no-spray” vineyard.
Reisch hopes its hint of blueberry will attract wine lovers, while its superior resistance to downy and powdery mildews will appeal to growers interested in more sustainable practices. Its name was suggested by Michael Fleischhauer, retired computer analyst and wine enthusiast from Juneau, Alaska.
‘Aromella’, an aromatic, muscat white wine grape, was named by Michael Borboa, a Californian winemaker and songwriter who used a lyric exercise he uses for writing songs. ‘Aromella’ ranks high for winter hardiness and productivity.
Reisch says its release is timely given the growing popularity of muscat wines.
Cornell's newest grapes: Aromella, left, and Arandell
The project emerged almost accidently when Anna Katharine Mansfield, assistant professor of enology, suggested emailing colleagues to introduce two varieties ripe for naming. As news of their appeal spread through the proverbial grapevine, it attracted coverage from outlets including NPR’s Morning Edition and Bon Appétit online.
“At one point messages were popping up in my inbox every 5 to 15 seconds,”
Reisch said. “People proposed names but many also shared stories.”
Family tributes were a popular theme. One person suggested a grape be named for his wine-loving mother-in-law; another thought they should be named after his lively twin sons.
“One thoughtful person asked if I had a grape named for me, suggesting ‘Breischling,’”Reisch said.
But grape naming is serious business. With 7,000 plus existing varieties on the market, new grapes face an uphill battle.
“You want something unique but it has to be marketable, reasonably easy to pronounce and conjure positive connotations,” Reisch said. Names that sound foreign or similar to existing varieties are often popular, he added.
“The trickiest part is ensuring the name isn’t trademarked or already used in the industry,” said Mansfield. Once the list was pruned to 120, Reisch researched each name then gathered opinions on 19 finalists from growers and winemakers.
They admit it was hard crossing off personal favorites. Many submissions had Cornell associations, like ‘Big Red’ (Cornell’s mascot), ‘A.D. White’ (Cornell’s first president) and ‘Llenroc’ (Cornell spelled backwards). Others, like ‘Genevieve’, were inspired by the grapes’ birthplace in Geneva, N.Y.
Perhaps the most creative offering came from four different entrants, who suggested comedians Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart be the namesakes.
Brian Gambrell had this to say: “I propose Stewart for the white, and Colbert for the red. Citrusy and aromatic is refreshing, just like John Stewart and “The best F@*king News Team on Television.” As for the red, I'm sure it's brilliant and deep, just like The Rev. Sir Dr. Stephen T. Mos Def Colbert, D.F.A., Heavyweight Champion of the World.”
“‘Colbert Red’ and ‘Stewart White’ do have the essence of great grape names, but are already associated with existing vineyards,” said Reisch.
(NOTE: For a tongue-in-cheek take on why the judges rejected Stewart and Colbert, go to
Reisch hopes winemakers will now experiment with the grapes just as people did with their naming. Double A Vineyards in Fredonia, N.Y. and Grafted Grapevine Nursery in Clifton Springs, N.Y. have vines of ‘Arandell’ and ‘Aromella’available for sale.
As for why the challenge caught on, Reisch thinks it has to do with immortality and the romance of wine: “After all, who wouldn’t want to name something people may enjoy for hundreds of years?”
Here are some other names that came close, but didn’t quite have the right bouquet:
Most common: Big Red
Most random: Floridian Dew
Most fun to say: Zitrustaminer
Most culturally relevant: Edehka Gakwa (“the sun” in the Native American Cayuga
language) and Tkwëhtä’ë:’ (“red” in Seneca)
Best regional: Gorgess
Most practical: Sensibility
Best accent: Newyorka
Best fashion sense: Leatherstocking Allure
Worst fashion sense: Velour
Most political: Obama White and Romney Red
Most ambitious: Elderclimber
Best wordplay: Berry My Heart
Most appetizing: Confitnoir
Least appetizing: Blue Puker
Best suggestion inspired by a song: Red Toupee or Dark Side of the Wine
Best suggestion inspired by an animal: Ghost Deer White