Through some curious developments in history, two different species of grapes became popular in North America and Europe. North American grapes, called table grapes, are bigger and pulpier, while European grapes, known as wine grapes, are smaller, but more flavorful. As the names suggest, the latter is more commonly used in wine production, while the former is more appropriate for direct consumption or cooking. But why? What makes wine grapes uniquely suited for producing alcohol? Why can’t table grapes be used for the same purpose?
In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and more. We’ll go over everything you need to know about both types of grapes, and what makes them unique.
What are Wine and Table Grapes?
What are traditionally known as wine grapes make up around 90% of all grapes produced throughout the world. This species of grape, called Vitis vinifera, is most commonly found in Europe, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean region.
On the other hand, table grapes are the ones you’ll come across in the aisles of a supermarket. The name of this species is Vitis labrusca, and includes concords, green grapes, purple ones, and many more. These grapes are almost double the size of a wine grape, but more does not necessarily mean better.
What Is The Difference Between The Two Types?
There are many, many differences between table and wine grapes. These are described below.
Sugars and Flavors
Wine grapes are smaller, but they contain more sugar. This is measured by a metric called the Brix level. Table grapes score a 17-19 on this scale, while wine grapes approach 24-26. This has a significant impact on the fermentation process when making wine, leading to the production of an inferior product with low alcohol content.
The low sugar levels of table wines stem from their pulpiness, which increases the amount of water in a grape. While this results in bad wine, it does have an advantage. The firmness water lends to table grapes makes them easier to transport. Wine grapes often burst while being moved, and require much more delicate handling. They are also susceptible to spoilage due to the excess sugar.
Besides sugar levels, wine grapes also have more concentrated flavors. This is because they have thicker skins, and contain seeds filled with tannins that add dryness to wine. Though table grapes can sometimes also come with seeds, this is usually not the case. They also have thinner skins to make grapes easier and more delicious to eat.
Though wine grapes are more commonly grown, table grapes actually have a higher yield than them. In a single harvest cycle, a farmer can grow more than three times the amount of table grapes compared to its alternative. Lower yields fetch better flavors at the cost of quantity. The difference in yields also has to do with the methods used to grow the two grapes. This can help one tell whether a vineyard is filled with table or wine grapes. The former are usually grown with vertical trellises that help space out the grapes and avoid overcrowding.
Lastly, wine grapes are much healthier for you than table grapes. The former is packed with antioxidants, which is why wine consumption in moderation can be healthy for you in many ways. This includes a reduction in harmful LDL cholesterol, better skin, and an increase in lifespan, etc.
Although table and wine grapes are both grapes, they are worlds apart in terms of their characteristics. The former is bigger and pulpier, but low on sugar and complex flavor. Wine grapes are small and seedy, but difficult to transport and produce in bulk. Both grapes have evolved to suit unique functions, through distinct characteristics that come with a set of merits and demerits that have been outlined above.