INTRODUCTION TO GRAPES
A grape, botanically classified as a berry is a fruit that can either be eaten fresh or they can be used for making various products – jam, grape juice, wine, jelly, raisins, grape seed extract, vinegar, and grape seed oil. Grapes are a type of fruit which generally occur in clusters. The cultivation of grapes began around 6000 to 8000 years ago. Grapes can be black, dark blue, yellow, green, orange, pink and crimson. Raw grapes contain 81% water. The grape is a woody vine, which can reach a length of 17 meters or more if untrained. The leaves are edible as well. Grapes are a source of Vitamin A and contain minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. Grapes can be eaten fresh or dried, known as raisins. However, most standard or higher quality wines are produced using the European wine grape – Vitis Vinifera. There are at least 5,000 reported varieties of this species with different characteristics, such as changes in color, size and shape. Grapes are the most widely produced fruit crop in the world used for commercial purposes.
According to production in metric tons, China, U.S.A and Italy are the largest producers of grapes, followed by France, Spain and turkey having a considerable amount of grape production.
For thousands of years, grapes have been cultivated domestically, the trade started in areas including Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Turkey in the Middle East to name a few locations. 70 percent of the grapes grown in the world are used to make wine according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
It’s overwhelming to think of all the different kinds of grapesout there, but I will list some of the more popular ones. To keep it easier I am going to classify the grapes into red and white grape varieties.
1. Cabernet Sauvignon: It’s one of the most famous and most popular grape wine varieties around the world. The historic original home is a region in France – the Bordeaux winemaking region, winemakers in Napa Valley in California as well as the Coonawarra wine region in Australia, are making world-class cabernet sauvignon wines.
2. Pinot Noir: It is part of the Pinot Grape family. Pinot noir grape variety is grown in France, other regions that produce this variety in include new Zealand, chile, Oregon, and parts of Australia. Production is limited, as this variety requires a very particular kind of soil and climate.
3. Merlot: It is dark blue in color, used a blending grape as well as for wines. Its found mostly in Chile, California, new york, Washington, and Northeastern Italy.
4. Syrah: Also called Shiraz, it’s a heavy skin, dark grape. Grows in hotter climates and its style can vary from country to country. Top producers are California Australia and Sicily, Italy.
5. Malbec: it originates from France. The ideal conditions to grow this grape has been discovered by argentine and French winemakers.
6. Sangiovese: mostly used in Mediterranean style cuisines, it is mainly produced in warmer climate areas, mostly California and Italy’s Tuscany region.
7. Tempranillo: Tempranillo could be the largest cultivated grape species according to recent data per acre. It is grown in warmer climates of Australia, Turkey, California, New Zealand, Texas and South America. Production of tempranillo is governed by strict laws.
8. Zinfandel: It’s among the oldest grapes grown and highly regarded in California, in recent years, it has been proven that it originates from Croatia and its a Croatian grape. Its flavor is a bit like blackberry or raspberry.
9. Barbera: these grapes are very versatile and go well with tomato sauces as well as many dishes. It has unique acidity with a silky texture. This delicious grape thrives particularly in Italy and temperate regions.
10. Carmenere: it is Chile’s most popular grape cultivated originally in France, also part of the Cabernet family. Its name translates to crimson, which refers to the colors in the harvest season.
1. Chardonnay: it grows all over the world. Young chardonnay, by itself, smells and tastes like green apples. It is most popularly grown in burgundy, California, and Australia. This grape is very versatile and popular.
2. Chenin Blanc: This white grape is very common in the Loire valley of France. It produces, sparkling and sweet dessert wines, its also called steen in South Africa, it basically exhibits pear and apple-like flavors.
3. Gewurztraminer: This grape is at its best in Alsace, in Oregon and northern Italy its simply called Traminer, it pairs well with Asian dishes and spicy foods.
4. Marsanne: it is the most important white wine grape of the northern Rhone, it makes full-bodied, low acid wine, tastes a bit like almonds, white peaches, and pears. Some of the oldest plantings in the world are found in Australia.
5. Muscat: there are many varieties across the world, they exhibit a strong aroma of oranges or tangerines, it can be made into lovely light sparkling wines or rich dessert wines. The most luscious and dense grapes are found in Australia.
6. Pinot Blanc: they are very similar to chardonnay but lighter and more elegant, some very nice versions are made in Alsace, northern Italy, Oregon and parts of California, ranging from herbal, citrusy to spicy. It’s best to leave it in stainless steel.
7. Riesling: its much like Chenin blanc, ranges from dry to stony to sweet and floral. The sweetest versions can age for decades. The greatest wines are the german varieties. Best versions outside of Europe can be found in Washington, new york and Australia.
8. Roussanne: it’s full-bodied, tastes of lime and citrus, its acids make it a fine blending partner for Marsanne, its widely planted throughout southern France, California and Washington state.
9. Sauvignon Blanc: it does well in diverse parts of the world. It can deliver interesting flavors during various stages of ripeness. It has become a benchmark of white wine in new Zealand. In California its often barrel fermented and ripened. It makes for one of the greatest sweet wines in the world.
10. Semillon: flavor profile is basically fig, melon and light herb. It has sparse success on its own, but Washington state and Australia do very well with the grape. It’s usually low in acid, but they can age nicely in wines and add on layers of flavor.
11. Viognier: its intensely aromatic and a difficult wine to make, as it can be quite bitter and austere, excellent wines are made in Australia, rhone, California and Washington. When blended with syrah, which then adds wonderful high notes of flower and citrus to the finished red wine.
12. Gruner Veltliner: Shows a flavor profile of apple, citrus and peach. It accounts for a third of all plantings in Austria, small plantings are housed in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and even the US. its most expressive when grown in austria., its native land. It has a broad range of flavors and styles which only adds to its charisma.