Courtesy of Prof. Reisch

Everest Seedless grapes are the size of a quarter.

October 15, 2018

Cornell Lab’s Newest Grape Variety Boasts Size, Robustness and Flavor

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With its enormous size, plump, blue skin and resilience against insects and New York’s ruthless winters, the Everest Seedless has potential to be a new popular table grape variety.

Previously, the Cornell-Geneva Grapevine Breeding and Genetics Program bred several red and white wine grape varieties including Arandell and Aromella, both released in 2013. Released last month, the Everest Seedless is one of the few table grapes released by the group — the last table grape was released 20 years ago, according to Prof. Bruce Reisch, horticulture.

The breeders of Everest Seedless say that its features have fulfilled their intended goals, which, according to Reisch, was to look for “flavorful grapes with large berries and large clusters.”

Just like its name suggests the massive height of the world’s tallest mountain, the Everest grape weighs seven grams, which is about twice the size of a typical Concord grape.

“Unlike other grapes in supermarkets with mild fruity flavors, the Everest Seedless is aromatic and has a burst of flavor that leaves the mouth full of juice,” Reisch said. Its combination of sweet and tart flavors, as well as its characteristic soft skin, is intended for a table grape served fresh rather than for wine, juice or preserves.

Yet achieving such produce was a long climb. Larger berries require double the number of chromosomes of regular berries, so Reisch traveled to Japan in the 1980s to investigate varieties that contain these specific chromosomes. By collaborating with Japanese professors and large grape variety breeders, he was able to collect seeds and pollen from Kyoho and Pione grapes with 76 chromosomes. He and his team were then able to cross these with the American Concord and Niagara varieties, as well as previously Cornell-breeded grapes like Himrod and Ontario. In 1999, the team was finally able to plant the first cross of the Everest Seedless.

The results were fruitful — Everest Seedless proved to be tolerant of typical New York winters and could withstand downy mildew and powdery mildew that have been plaguing other grapes in the region. Reisch said that the grape seemed unaffected by insects as it grew without the need of insecticides in the research vineyards. All of these characteristics and the grape’s easy-to-grow procedures are predicted to attract home gardeners, pick-your-own operations and roadside stands.

Currently, the Everest Seedless is being licensed to Double A Vineyards in Fredonia, New York for the next 10 years and can be purchased directly from their website for $11 a vine.

“It’s not as large as Mount Everest!” said Reisch, but, with its promising charms, the Everest Seedless could pave the way for developing and transporting successful table grapes to markets across the country.