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Table Grapes Vs. Wine Grapes For Wine Making

Posted on June 13, 2015 by Ed Kraus There have been 13 comment(s)

Table Grapes vs Wine GrapesHello Kraus,

Please explain to me what is the difference between wine grapes and table grapes.

Thank you,
Mert B.
Hello Mert,

This is a great question and one that gets down to the basics of learning how to make your own wine.

There are many significant differences between wine making grapes and table grapes – eating grapes as you called them:

Table grapes are crunchy-er with a stronger skin and firmer pulp than wine grapes. This not only makes them more pleasant and appealing to eat, but it also makes them hold up to the rigors of being transported long distances to your local market. As a consequence, grape you buy at the store tend to have less juice in relation to the amount of pulp.

The juice you get from the eating grapes is also not as sweet as the juice from wine grapes. A typical brix reading for table grapes is 17 to 19, whereas wine grapes are around 24 to 26 brix. This is important because it is the sugar that gets turned into alcohol during a fermentation — less sugar, less alcohol.

*Brix is a scale that represents the amount of sugar in a liquid as a percentage. It is the standard scale used by refractometers which are used to take these readings in the vineyard.

Another significant difference is that the acidity level of table grapes tend to be slightly lower that the average wine grape. This is to increase the grapes impression of sweetness while on the market.

Having said all this, you can learn how to make your own wine using grapes you buy from the grocery store. You can run them through grape presses to get all the pulp out of the way. You can add extra sugar to bring the brix level up to that of a wine grape juice. And, you can adjust the acidity of the juice by adding acid blend to raise the acid level to what's need for wine.Shop Grape Concentrate

But all of this will not change the leading factor that makes a table grape far different from a wine grape... and that is flavor. While table grapes taste fine for popping into your mouth as a snack, once fermented, the flavor of the resulting wine is fairly uneventful and could also be described as non-existent.

While table grapes could be used for learning how to make your own wine – as a practice run, so to speak – do not expect this wine to bring any enthusiastic raves from family, friends and neighbors. The wine will be drinkable and may even be pleasant, but it will not be stellar.

Mert, I hope this answers your question about table grapes and wine grapes. It is a question that we get fairly often, so I plan on posting it on our wine making blog.  If you have anymore questions, just let us know. We want to do everything we can to help you become a successful home winemaker.

Happy Wine Making
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

This post was posted in Home Wine Making Tips, Q&A, Wine Making Blog, Wine Making Ingredients

13 thoughts on “Table Grapes Vs. Wine Grapes For Wine Making”

  • richard brostek
    richard brostek June 14, 2015 at 6:06 am

    very good information from Krause. thank you for being informative with us students of the chemistry of wine making . it is very interesting and helpful

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service June 14, 2015 at 6:30 am

    John, you could show him the above blog post, but beyond that the only way I could think of would be to put some wine grapes and table grapes side-by-side in front of him.

  • John Stoltz

    My Boss is adament that there is no difference between table grapes and winemaking grapes ! How do I convince him of what the fundamental differences are ?

  • doc holliday

    Are concord grapes table or wine? what are good wine grapes that i can plant in zone 5b. We have colder winters. thanks

    • Ed Kraus

      Doc, concord grapes are considered wine grapes. In regards to what would be the best type of grapes to plant in your area, i would recommend contacting the agriculture department of your state university or perhaps a local nursery.

  • Tommy aka Harley

    great info I have been making wine now for a few years.I now know what the difference is between table grapes and wild vine grown grapes.i do not know how i did it the first to time the readienes of my wine to be taste tested on new years eve .but now it is a yearly event along with our new years celebration.

  • Abu Nawwas

    It might be of interest for readers of this blog go also realize that Thompson Seedless, the almost always available 'table' grape, is also a wine grape, being part of the vitis vinifera family. One of the reasons Thompson Seedless was/is so popular, is that it can be used for three products: table grapes, raisins, and wine, making it attractive to growers who want to sell at the highest possible price. If prices for table grapes are high, they'll pick for that. Similarly for wine. In worst case, they have raisins. The fallacy in this thinking is, of course, that a lot of other growers are looking at the same trends, so, what seems high price for table grapes one day could suddenly become much lower as growers start flooding the market to take advantage of those prices. As for wine - a surprisingly large amount of generic "California AVA" table wine is based on Thompson. Because it tends toward the insipid, it is blended with wines made from other varieties (often aromatic Muscat) to make a more flavorful end product. However, if used by itself, it can be perfectly fine, provided the grapes are allowed to get ripe enough. That's the trick: as stated above, the Thompson you are getting in the stores are not picked for wine-ripeness. However, if you grow your own, you can pick as you like. An advantage of Thompson is that it is easy to grow, fairly hardy and a big producer. The latter attribute is also its biggest downfall. That is, when heavily cropped (as they do in much of California's Central Valley), the grapes don't have much flavor (of course, they're also being picked before some of the interesting phenolic compounds have developed). They are also give all sorts of growth inducing substances (eventually poisoning the soil, but that's another matter), so yields are huge. However, Thompson grapes grown carefully by small or home growers will not have the same yields, can be picked later, and will have more flavor.

    One more thing: The number cited above for wine grape ripeness: 24-26 brix, is relative. And, it is high. While producers in warm parts of California (and some other, mostly western startes) can get 24 brix without too much stress (that is, their own), growers in other places, such as the Finger Lakes, Long Island, or cooler climate regions, really aim for 22-22.5 brix. So, too, does the new wave of California cool-climate producers (mostly true coastal). People who want to make sparkling wine pick at 17-19 brix since they seek higher natural acidity, and because flavors that are being developed in the grapes that might be too subtle for regular, still table wine, are accentuated by carbonation. Grapes that are really flavorful upon picking will result is a weirdly, over flavored wine when turned to bubbly.

  • Mc

    I have wine grapes growing on a healthy vine but, can't get to them before they dry up or black rot gets them. I'm trying to make a test batch with these. I'll let ya know.

  • Bill in La.

    @Abu Nawas, your post is very informative and interesting on several points and supports the article well. Your insight comes through clearly with very helpful information that deserves more thought. Thanks.

  • Laura

    I have been making wine for nine years now. CONCORD does make a nice drink early wine. better when it is a little sweet. i also mix it and use it for top off wine. PLEASE try it. I also live in zone 5. the best grapes to grow IS EARLY RIPENING and PINOT VARIETIES. There are several to choose from.

  • Bob

    I've been making wine from fresh California grapes for 7 years and have been asked by friends the table vs wine grape question before and your explanation was great, but one question sometimes leads to another: how did that difference come to be? I don't mean genetically, but like naval oranges and seedless watermelons, were grapes modified, over time, with certain qualities to stand the rigors of shipping or did some grapes already have those qualities?

    • Ed Kraus

      Bob, since we do not actually grow grapes ourselves we can only speculate. We assume that it did begin with some type of grape grafting. We also assume that there is some type of genetic modifications occurring.

  • Francis

    Hi Kraus, Bob, and Doc holliday (in zone 5 like me asking about grapes to grow.)

    Well Grape breeding, natural occurring mutations , and chance seedlings spread by birds grown along side cultivated grapes have been happening for thousands of years (hybridization between different species in America , and elsewhere)

    Genetic modification is a touchy political subject, and is something completely different.

    I do not see how grapes being different from one another when you have things like
    Mutations such as red grapes turning white changing off the same vine, and even natural occurring seedless grapes (such as a Italian 1840 grape termarina rossa ) happening ..

    re reading your question I do not think that answered it,
    but natural section as suited for table (and or) vineyard management may be a better answer vine trellising techniques , and Grapes are picked earlier not to spoil during shipping , but I do not grow commercial grapes so I know not much of trellising techniques personally, but think of a homegrown concord, and one from the market.

    About trellising table verse wine grapes You can google
    trellis grapes table verse wine

    Doc holliday About grapes IN zone 5 IF you where right at the bottom of IL You could grow Norton , but you might live in a cooler climate, and they might not ripen fully

    Look into some of the things breeders are doing (like Minnesota state university )
    and on the New York Uni site you can see how to breed your self

    Marquette negative 36 F.
    Golubok Is a grape of Russian origin Amur grape/ .
    Corot Noir
    Frontenac ( Frontenac gris white )
    Sabrevois - 31 F
    Marechal Foch
    Regent --
    Castel 19-637
    Baltica i
    Baco Noir
    La Crescent (White)
    traminette (white) -15 F
    marquis (white)

    Do not forget older types like Delaware ,
    and some of these other grapes may get powdery mildew..

    last but not least
    Of coarse you could take 10 lbs of wild grapes (vitis riparia those pea sized grapes) about a grocery bag full dilute with about 3 gallons of water , and add sugar keep on the skins for only a few days since they can impart a bad flavor can also blend 30 or 40 pounds of concord grapes, but I may be off since I usually made bigger batches with 100 pounds of concord ,and many pounds of wild grapes (100 maybe ), and dilute the potent flavor of them with water .

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