From oatmeal with raisins to PB&J to a nice little nightcap of wine or champagne, grape products are good at nearly any time of day.
And happily for fruit nerds like us, it seems there are nearly as many types of grapes out there as there are things to make out of grapes. We’ll raise a glass of sparkling fermented grape juice to that!
Grapes of Wrath
Grapes may come off as the party food—enjoyed as a fine wine, or leisurely plucked by a lounging Greek god from a golden chalice—but these seemingly chill berries love to fight.
There are so many types of grapes in the world, the fruit practically forces you to choose sides—are you a white or a red? A table or a wine?
Keep reading to find out. But choose wisely.
Table Grapes vs. Wine Grapes
If size is what matters to you, consider yourself team table grapes.
The varietal is much larger than their wine-making cousins—and for all their heft, have far smaller seeds to boot, making them by far the most popular grapes for snacking. (We’ll put it this way: If it’s sold at the grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s most likely a table grape.)
Still, wine grapes also seize the advantage of their size, with a smaller berry translating to a fuller, more condensed juice for making the fermented drink.
And grapes of the wine variety have the upper hand when it comes to sugar content – again, thanks to their smaller stature, which can offer a more concentrated punch of the sweet stuff (and just so happens to be a key factor in wine making).
Size and snacking vs. sweetness and wine? We’ll have to sit this one out.
Red Grapes vs. White Grapes
Grapes may just be one “O” short from ROY G. BIV—that is, coming in shades of red, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet—but for all their colorful expressions, the varietals all stem from two types of grape: Red and white.
The differences are more than cosmetic, with the darker-colored skin of the red grape family able to carry more antioxidants than their light-colored cousins – though red grapes are also more weighed down with dreaded tannins, an astringent, bitter compound pooh-poohed by so many sommeliers.
Still, for most people, it simply comes down to flavor profiles. Red grapes have a typically sweeter and richer taste, while white grapes—also known as green or yellow grapes—carry a more citrusy, sour bite.
And if the rule of duality says anything, it’s that we need a bit of both in this world to appreciate the other.
A Bunch More Grapes!
But it’s more than the heavyweight fights that count. When it comes to grapes, the possibilities for hostilities are nearly endless.
That’s because today, there’s more than 10,000 varietals grown across the globe, with vines stretching over nearly every country on earth.
That’s more than even the best-paid sommelier – or fight promotor – could keep track of, so we’ve narrowed down our list to the most interesting and popular types of grapes: mainly the ones that have stood the test of time and aged like a fine—well, you know.
Familiar to anyone who’s ever had Welch’s grape juice or jelly – or, essentially, anyone who grew up in the United States – this type of grape is named after the Massachusetts town where it was first developed.
But it was New Jersey businessman Thomas Welch who made the grape a global phenom, using the concord in his famous namesake products.
And it’s easy to see why. Like the juice and jellies that bear its name, concord grapes are as grapey as it gets: sweet, bright and satisfyingly purple-blue.
From the familiar to the—well, at least slightly strange.
This varietal is one of the world’s newest types of grapes, developed in the early 2000s by food scientist David Cain, who bred several Middle Eastern strains together to bring his novelty fruit to fruition.
The end result? An elongated, almost finger-shaped cultivar that casts a so-purple-its-almost-black color and carries a sweet taste and a crunchy snap.
It’s almost like Cain went out of his way to make the world’s least grapey grape. We’ll just call him the avant gardener.
Bless those old-school winemakers. All the ingenuity they used to create the delicious fermented drinks was spared when it came to naming their wines.
And so the world was given pinot noir: the popular wine that came from the grape varietal of the same name.
Like most everything else wine-related, this cultivar got its start in France, though today it’s one of the most popular types of grapes grown in the world. And aside from fermenting beautifully, pinot noir grapes are wonderful all on their own, with a deep blue-purple color, sweet aroma and flavor profile incorporating hints of cherry, strawberry and even caramel.
Okay, after introducing you to the pinot noir grape, this one may seem like a bit of a trick—but champagne grapes are actually not used to make the famous French sparkling wine (Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, and Chardonnay grapes are most commonly used to produce Champagne).
Rather, the varietal is likely named after the distinctive feature of champagne: its bubbles.
That’s because champagne grapes are one of the smallest berries out there – often growing no larger than a pea. And these tiny white grapes are known to pop in your mouth with a burst of sweetness. We’ll toast to that!
From the wine cellar to the snack aisle, these types of grapes are possibly best known in their wizened raisin form.
Indeed, it’s their signature seedlessness (along with a healthy amount of sweetness) that makes Thompson Seedless grapes so perfect for wrinkling up and turning into every scout’s favorite snack.
The most popular type of white grape grown in the United States, Thompson Seedless widely go by the name Sultana in the U.K. and Europe. But the versatile varietal is also responsible for seeding any number of other seedless varieties, including darker-skinned Thompson Seedless raisins.
In the wide world of grape fighting, Kyoho would be the heavyweight champion – literally.
This red grape varietal is by far the biggest type of grape out there, with individual berries growing as large as a plum. No wonder their name translates, from Japanese, to “giant mountain grape.”
Still, not all of that size is put to the best use. The skin on these deep purple grapes is thick and bitter and not very pleasant to eat. So if you plan on hiking on the mountain, you might want to plan on removing some layers.
The perfect pairing with circus peanuts, this varietal proves once again that it’s nature who truly makes the best tasting candy. (Well, nature, with a bit of a tinkering assist from California grape grower Jim Beagle, who developed the cultivar in 2011.)
The light green beauties are a pop of confectionary goodness, bearing a strikingly similar taste to their namesake.
Bonus: The cotton candy grown on a vine comes with all the vitamins and minerals of its grape brethren, including vitamin C and potassium.
Still, with all the great types of grapes out there to fight over, there can be only one winner: Us, the people who get to eat them. Yum!