Who has not had fleeting fantasy of grabbing grocery store grapes and taking a stab at winemaking?
It will not turn out well. Grocery table grapes and wine grapes are not the same.
For starters, wine grapes are species Vitis Vinifera, while most table grapes are Vitis Labrusca and Vitis Rotundifolia, although some table grapes are Vitis Vinifera.
• Table grapes have thin skins so you can chomp and enjoy delicious flesh. Wine grapes have thick skins so winemakers can extract flavor, color, tannin.
• Table grapes have tiny seeds—even no seeds—so you can masticate the whole thing. Wine grapes have large seeds, often very large seeds, to contribute tannin and other flavors.
• Table grapes are large, the larger the better for supermarket shoppers. Wine grapes are significantly smaller. Winemakers want small berries, thick skins, seeds; table grape growers want bulging berries, thin skins, small or no seeds.
• Table grapes are harvested green, before full maturity, so they survive trip to the grocery store and time on your table or in your refrigerator. Wine grapes are harvested at moment of maturity and immediately made into wine.
• Table grapes, because of early harvest, are not as sweet as wine grapes. Wine grapes are harvested at peak of sweetness since sugar is what turns into alcohol. Wine grapes are harvested at 22-30 percent sugar, table grapes half that.
• Finally, growers have different goals. Table grape growers seek maximum production per vine—30 pounds per vine is standard. Wine grape growers want concentration of flavor—10 pounds per vine approaches a max, while fine wines may be half that or less.
Bravo you want to take a stab at home winemaking, but you will have to table plans to buy the grapes at your supermarket.
• Mirassou California Pinot Noir 2014: Not over-oaked or candified. It drinks like a true pinot at excellent price. $12
• Conde de Velázquez Condesa Real Premium Blend Red Wine 2012: Delicious, intriguing cab-led blend. $29
• Ponzi Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve Willamette Valley 2012: Pure, clean, racy thanks to the attention to acidity, delicious expression of chardonnay. $28-35
Last round: “Madame, you are drunk on wine.” “Sir, you are an ugly oaf. In the morn, I will be sober.”
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