The Four Main Kinds of Grape

Grapes are a type of fruit botanically categorized as “berry”. Some traits of true berries are that they have internal seeds and pulp, and the fruit develops from the ovary of a flower. The general growth habit of grapes is to grow in clusters from a woody vine.

Wine grapes are processed immediately after harvest without external heat, and undergo yeast fermentation. The berries are small, high in sugar, and have thick skins full of yummy tannin and gorgeous color. The most common, traditional wine grapes are the species Vitis vinifera.

Table grapes are intended for consumption while fresh. Generally the fruit is large, sweet, and firm with lower acid, thinner skins, and higher water content than wine grapes. Many types have been bred to be seedless for easier eating, and some common types are Thompson Seedless and Centennial.

Juice and jelly grapes are processed immediately in a variety of appropriate-to-batch-size ways utilizing heat. A trademark of these grapes is the thick slipskin which separates easily from the pulp. Concord, Catawba, and Niagara grapes are some varieties used in juice and jelly.

Raisins are literally just dried grapes, and the fruit is always seedless. Traditionally grapes are set out on paper and left in the vineyard row middles to dehydrate under the sun.

Another method is vine-dried, which is when the cane from which the grape clusters are growing is cut from the vine but left up on the trellis system, and the grapes dry into raisins still within their cluster shape. Eventually the raisins are harvested by hand or machine. Raisins are dried from many types of grapes including Thompson Seedless (the most common in the US), Fiesta, and Zante Currant.

As Shakespeare (or, rather, Juliet) says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” As you can see, this is not so with grapes! Each type is distinct and delicious in its own way.

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Maureen O'Callaghan

Assistant Winemaker

Hi my name is Maureen!
I attended wine school at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College from 2014-16. Professionally I started out in the industry on the growing side, working as a harvest intern and then viticulturist on Red Mountain. I joined Merry Cellars as the assistant winemaker in 2021.

Maureen O 'Callaghan

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