By Melissa Dobson, Finger Lakes News Correspondent
As a follow up to Lenn’s mention of Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars’ announcement of the release of Riesling Clone N90, I had the opportunity to interview Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Frank’s, to get more detail on the project and its significance.
Melissa Dobson: Tell me about how the Riesling Clone N90 project was created.
Frederick Frank: After experiencing several record cold winters in 2003 and 2004 my father, Willy, and I discussed pursuing the importation of some virus-free clone N90 riesling vines from the Neustadt Research Station in Germany. We wanted to import grafted vines that were rooted to insure that the vines were virus free and crown gall free. We hoped to establish a mother block which we could use for future propagation for our vineyard expansion and have available for other vineyards. This project took several years to implement and required the cooperation of the USDA, New York Agriculture & Markets, Cornell University and the Neustadt Research Station.
MD: Why is the release of riesling Clone N90 important?
FF: According to Dr. Marc Fuchs at Cornell University, there is a high percentage of riesling vines in New York that are infected with virus diseases and also crown gall bacteria. These weaken the vine resulting in lower winter hardiness, lower sugar levels in the grapes and therefore lower potential wine quality. By starting out with the best riesling clone and ensuring that the vines were virus free and crown gall free we felt that the quality of Finger Lakes riesling would be improved. The riesling Clone N90 has improved winter hardiness, greater potential wine quality with enhanced aromatics and greater disease resistance due to looser bunches.
MD: What does riesling Clone N90 mean for Dr. Frank’s Winery? What does it mean for the Finger Lakes region? And what does it mean for the wine world overall?
FF: I believe that by planting future vineyards with virus-free and crown gall-free riesling Clone N90 vines we will improve the quality of our vineyards and therefore the quality of our wines. This will result in healthier vines that will have greater resistance to winter cold and be more disease resistant. We will be able to offer these Clone N90 vines in the future to other vineyards.
MD: What are the benefits for consumers and will they notice a difference in wines made with riesling Clone N90? Can you explain these differences?
FF: Wines made from riesling Clone N90 will have a slightly higher alcohol level due to higher sugar levels in the grapes. The wines will have enhanced aromatics and have a typical riesling character.
MD: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
FF: My dad, Willy, was the guiding force behind this project. He passed away before we received the approval to import the vines and he would have been very proud to have witnessed their release approval. Like his father before him he did not take "no" for an answer but rather took it to be a challenge to work harder to overcome the obstacles. I am grateful to the cooperation we received from the USDA, New York State Dept. of Ag. & Mkts., Cornell University and Neustadt Research Station.