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Published: Tuesday, 8/29/2006

In a few years, we'll sample wines from new hybrid grapes

After some 30 years of testing and tweaking, two Cornell University professors announced the release of three new wine grapes: two red (Noiret and Corot noir) and one white (Valvin Muscat), according to the recent issue of Wine Business Monthly.

These are not the first hybrid grape varieties. Such hybrids as Chambourcin, Niagara, and Seyval have been around for a long while and have contributed in no small measure to the American wine industry.

The goal of such crossings of different varieties is to produce fruit that retains the parent plants' most desirable qualities while decreasing their shortcomings.

The Cornell scientists report that the two new reds have satisfying tannin structures, and that the muscat is not at all tainted by a Labrusca "foxy" flavor and aroma that made native whites unattractive to many consumers.

Drawing wine from vines demands three or four years of painstaking cultivation in the vineyard, so it may be some time before we get a chance to sample these Cornell hybrids at a winery visit or a retail shelf.

Here are two more red wines - each a shiraz/syrah - and two whites with which to celebrate the final barbecues of summer. One, decorated with an ornate, colorful, Victorian-style label, is a syrah from a winemaker, Domaine Miguel, in the south of France. If you already are a syrah fan, you will be delighted with this (about $10). From Italian stalwart Folonari, the prize entry is an '04 shiraz made from grapes grown on the island of Sicily. Again, an unfamiliar winemaker turns this juice into a memorable shiraz - big, complex, with a lingering finish (about $12).

And the two whites? Both are French. An Alsatian specialty is a pinot blanc, the sort that is not submerged in the rich flavors of an equally native dinner, choucroute garnie. It's a 2004 Cuvee les Amours ($15) produced by Hugel et Fils. Only reluctantly I must add a white burgundy of classic proportions. This dry white '05 chardonnay, les Setilles, by Olivier LeFlaive, is good, not great. Its price is $17, which would be high if burgundy prices were not rocketing upward year after year.

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