Table Grapes vs. Wine Grapes – What’s the Difference?
In the Vineyard
I’m sure you’ve all seen those beautiful picturesque vineyards with rows of perfectly lined vines. They are so attractive and charming to look at you can’t help but find yourself mesmerized by the stunning landscape. You know what grows on those vines – grapes. Grapes that when harvested will be used for consumption, whether as a food or beverage. However, did you know much consideration is placed on the structure of the vine depending on the type of grape one is growing? Table grapes, the ones you pop into your mouth and burst open with juicy flavor when you bite into them, are grown on vines that are different than grapes that are used in the wine making process or dried as raisins. I learned this after moving to the central region of California where agriculture thrives.
Living in the Los Angeles area for forty years, my husband and I were able to raise a family and lay down roots. However, as my husband approached retirement age, we felt it was important for our family to move out of the city. After considering many areas, we chose the Tulare County, which is approximately 200 miles north of Los Angeles. As we began to settle in and explore the city we now call home, we were continually amazed by the various crops that grew in the surrounding area. Tulare County produces an abundance of agricultural products due to its rich, fertile soil and is ranked second in the nation in agriculture production. Since we knew absolutely nothing about farming, we would ask friends and fellow farmers about the crops. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to become better acquainted with the landscape and the various growing methods that are used in our country’s food supply.
The grapevines always intrigued us. As we drove around town, we could see that some vines used a vertical trellis allowing the grapes to grow in tight clusters, while others used a wooden attachment allowing the grapes to hang down individually. We could see a visual difference, but couldn’t figure out why. We wondered what the purpose was in the different vines.
These vines are used to grow table grapes.
While attending church, we met a couple who was in the farm management business. They knew we were new to the area and wouldn’t find it unusual for us to ask about the local crops and farming in general. Tom explained to us the difference between the vines used for table grapes and wine grapes. Wine grapes are much smaller in size and grow in clusters on a vertical trellis. They contain a higher sugar content which helps in the fermentation process. The goal of wine grapes is to concentrate the flavor of the grapes in production. It is the wine grapes that are dried as raisins.
Table grapes are larger in size than wine grapes and much more physically appealing in appearance. They are grown in a way to reduce the clusters of grapes from rubbing against one another or rubbing against the stems and leaves. This is achieved by attaching a wooden device to the top portion of the trellis allowing the vine to grow up and out creating an umbrella or canopy type appearance. The grapes hang under the vines with minimal sun exposure. This means they are less acidic than wine grapes and contain less sugar.
Moving to the central region of California has given us many opportunities to expand our horizons. One of the most memorable moments came when my husband and I were invited to “Dine in the Vineyard.” We were given a detailed map to a vineyard out in the country. Being new to the area, we assumed it meant having dinner inside while enjoying views of the vineyard outside. Never in a million years did we think we’d be having dinner within the vineyard. When we arrived, we made our way to a table covered with a white linen tablecloth located within the vineyard and an individual meal at each place setting. A generator was used to provide background music and lights for when the sun set. There under the canopy of a grape vineyard we dined together. It was truly lovely!
© By Barbara Allard with Sheri Lamas