20 Facts You Probably Don't Know About Grapes

Karen Frazier
grapes

Whether you eat them raw or use them in wine production, grapes are an amazing fruit. Knowing a few facts about grapes can help you impress friends at your next wine tasting or choose the best bunch during your trips to the supermarket.

20 Fun Grape Facts

Want to learn more about grapes and impress your friends with your vine knowledge? These facts will make you sound like an expert!

1. Grapes Are Actually Berries

According to Dictionary.com, the word "berry" actually meant "grape" in Old English. Today, a grape is still defined as a type of berry in botanical terms. This means that each fruit comes from a single flower on the grapevine.

2. Table and Wine Grapes Are Different

It's natural to assume that wine is made from the type of grape that you see in your local grocery store. This isn't the case. Table grapes, or those you eat raw, are distinctly different. They have a thin skin, and over the years, farmers have bred them to be seedless or have very small seeds. Wine grapes, on the other hand, are smaller and have thicker skins and lots of seeds.

3. Grapes Have Been Around for 65 Million Years

A scientific review published in the journal Trends in Genetics reports that most researchers believe grapes are at least 65 million years old. Some of today's grape varieties are direct descendants of these ancient grapes.

4. People Have Been Cultivating Grapes for 8,000 Years

The review in Trends in Genetics also found that the oldest known cultivation of grapes by people occurred about 8,000 years ago in Georgia. From there, grape cultivation spread throughout Europe, and the Romans began to call different varieties of grapes by different names.

5. There Are 8,000 Different Varieties of Grapes

According to WebMD, there are more than 8,000 different grape varieties known to scientists. These include wine grapes and table grapes, most of which originated in Europe and the Americas.

6. 29,292 Square Miles Are Devoted to Grape Growing

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization keeps track of growing areas around the world and reports that 29,292 square miles of the Earth's surface are devoted to growing grapes. Top producers include Spain, Italy, China, and Turkey.

growing grapes

7. Grape Skins Naturally Host Yeast

Although yeast is an important ingredient in modern winemaking, grapes actually have yeast organisms growing naturally on their skins. The amount and type of yeast varies with the type of grape and its growing conditions. According to a study published in the journal Microbial Ecology, the riper the grape is, the more yeast is growing on it. This may account for why ancient people began to use this type of fruit to make wine.

8. You Can Grow Grapes Almost Anywhere in the Country

According to Better Homes and Gardens, grapes are hardy from USDA zone 5 through zone 9. This means you can grow them almost anywhere in the United States. However, different grape varieties are best suited to certain climates, so it's important to inquire about the best variety for your area. You can find out more about planting grape vines at your local greenhouse or university extension office.

9. Too Many Grapes on a Vine Leads to Poor Fruit

Better Homes and Gardens also reports that you can have too many grapes on a vine, which can detract from the quality of the fruit. Depending on the variety, each cluster of grapes may have between 15 and 300 individual berries. If you decide to grow grapes, it's a good idea to trim away flowers or grape clusters that don't look as healthy as others on the vine.

10. One Serving Provides 27% of Your Daily Vitamin C

Although many people don't associate grapes with being high in vitamin C, Self Nutrition Data reports that they actually contain more than a quarter of the vitamin C you need in a day. Grapes are also high in vitamin K, and they contain no fat or cholesterol.

11. People Are Eating More Grapes

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, people are eating more grapes than they did several decades ago. In 1970, the average person consumed 2.9 pounds of grapes each year. By 2009, yearly consumption has increased to 7.9 pounds per person.

eating grapes

12. The United States Is the Largest Table Grape Importer

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that the US is the world's largest importer of grapes for eating. In 2012, the US imported 568,000 tons of table grapes.

13. It Takes Many Grapes to Make Wine

It requires about 90 pounds of grapes to make five gallons or about 25 bottles of wine, according to Wine Maker Magazine. That equates to more than three and a half pounds of grapes per bottle.

14. Grapes Have Lots of Uses

Making wine and eating them fresh aren't the only ways to use grapes. Other uses include grape juice, grape jelly or jam, and drying grapes to make raisins. Some people also use extracts from grape seeds for medicinal purposes.

15. Someone Once Ate 205 Grapes in Three Minutes

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dinesh Shivnath Upadhyaya Mumbai, India holds the record for eating the most grapes ever in a period of three minutes. He consumed 205 grapes in that three minute period in 2015 and had to pick each grape up individually in order to do so.

16. You May Never Have Heard of the World's Most Widely Grown Grape

Forbes reports that the most widely grown grape variety in the world is the Kyoho, a table grape grown in China. The grapes are similar to Concord grapes and generally served peeled. The most popular wine grape in the world is Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kyoho grapes on the vine

17. Wine Grapes Are Sweeter Than Table Grapes

While it may seem counterintuitive based on the flavor of dry wine versus sweet table grapes, wine grapes generally have higher residual sugar than table grapes; wine grapes have a residual sugar of about 25 Brix, while table grapes tend to have a residual sugar of around 18 Brix. The reason wines taste far less sweet than table grapes is because the residual sugar of the grapes is fermented into alcohol, leaving only a small amount of sugar behind.

18. Seedless Grapes Have to Be Created From Cuttings

Seeds are important for grape reproduction, so how can there even be seedless grapes? The answer lies in cloning; that is, taking a cutting of a vine, dipping it in rooting hormone, and allowing it to root and grow into a new plant.

19. Many European Grape Vines Are Grafted Onto American Rootstock

In the mid-1800s, France and other European vineyards had many of their grapes wiped out by a blight from phylloxera, a small aphid believed to have originated in North America and traveled to Europe on ships. Growers discovered that American vines were resistant to phylloxera, so European vines were grafted onto North American rootstock in order to overcome the epidemic.

20. America Has Native Wine Grapes

It's widely accepted that many of the wine grape vines growing in North America today are Vitis vinifera, or European grapes. These grapes are the most commonly used in wines and include major players such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes. However, America also has its own native grape species, including Vitis labrusca (such as Concord grapes), Vitis riparia (the rootstock upon which European vines are now grafted), and Vitis rotundifolia, which are used to make Muscadine and Scuppernong wines in the American South.

Muscadine grapes from North America

Grapes Are Popular and Delicious

No matter how you use them, grapes are a popular and delicious fruit. Next time you pop one in your mouth, remember the exciting history and wonderful health benefits of these tasty little berries.

20 Facts You Probably Don't Know About Grapes