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Grape Varieties

by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | July 10, 2011

Grapes are a fruit whose varieties come in many forms and are grown for many purposes. Grape varieties differ in color, size, origin of country and flavor. Grapes are grown for eating raw (table grapes), raisins, juices, jellies/ jams and of course for the production of wine . Grapes are wonderful plants that are very versatile in many types of landscapes. They are adaptable, vigorous and sometimes even ornamental. Almost all of the grape varieties and hybrids are selected for their various flavors and colors.

Grape varieties are mainly classified in two ways. They are defined as either table grapes or wine grapes, and they are further separated by whether they are European grapes or American grapes. European grapes are classified as having originated from the grape variety family Vitis vinifera. American grapes originate from the grape variety family Vitis labrusca. Americans tend to prefer table grape varieties, as the European grapes have a nice tight skin. American grapes have a looser skin that slips off the grape more easily, which makes them ideal for peeling. Grapes that are eaten as is, or used in a recipe are called table grapes as opposed to wine grapes or raisin grapes.

There are over 60 table grape varieties. Consumption of fresh grapes in the United States is about 8 pounds per person per year. Table grape varieties should be large and thin-skinned with true seedless berries. They require good flavor as well as consumer appeal and acceptance. Such restraints drastically reduce the number of grape varieties for planting. The American grape variety is used primarily for sweet grape juice and other associated products such as jelly, jam and preserves. To date, California grape varieties have the best quality and consumers are familiar with them. California produces over 90% of the fresh table grapes in the U.S. The only negative nutritional value in table grapes is that most of the calories come from sugar. Because of the low amount of fat content and high amounts of Vitamins C and K, grapes are a good addition to a healthy balanced diet. Because of the ideal growing conditions in California, table grapes are available year round.

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Grapes are the main ingredient that makes wine taste the way it does. While there can be differences in the wine made from a single grape variety, the fact that a certain type of grape was used lets you know the basic information about what the winemaker intended to produce. The unique physiological make up of each wine grape variety including the color, size and acidity gives each wine its own character.

About 230 grape varieties have some prominence in the world of fine wines and hundreds more are used for wine in limited or local areas. The grape varieties that make the finest wines will grow only under the most delicately balanced conditions. In growing various grape varieties, the climate is perhaps the first consideration. Since climate is so important, there are relatively few areas in the world where great wine grapes can grow. The soil will also dictate the grape variety and the quality of what it produces. The combination of soil, climate and rainfall producing the best wines is rarely achieved, which makes it extremely expensive to cultivate various grape varieties in these perfect locations. Grapes grown for the production of wine have many more varieties than grapes produced for the table. Generally table grapes are not produced for wine because of the lower sugar content. Sugar is an import ingredient in the fermentation process of wine.

Grapes are grown in many varieties all around the world. Each grape variety is unique to its own purpose. When you are purchasing table grapes, jellies/jams, raisins or wine, keep in mind the process that went into their creation. Great care and consideration went into the growing process for each specific grape variety so that you could enjoy the fruit of the grape industry.

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