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Dear Dr. Vinny,
My question is about the grapes that are generally from the fruit store for eating. Can they be used for winemaking? It is more of an oval in shape in India as compared to its usual spherical shape. What are the effects it may differ if made into wine as compared to the usual ones?
—Shashank K., Mumbai, India
I’ve never been to a fruit store in India, but I can tell you that table grapes in the United States are very different from wine grapes. It makes sense—they’re used very differently. Table grapes are grown to be bigger and crunchier, with thin skins and small or no seeds. They’re also bred to be pretty sturdy, so they can survive the trip from the vineyard to the store to your home for eating.
Wine grapes are decidedly more fragile; they’re picked much riper and deteriorate faster after picking. Wine grapes are also sweeter (they need the sugar levels to convert to alcohol), softer and juicier. They’re typically much smaller than table grapes, and have thicker, chewier skins and bigger seeds.
Wine grapes can taste pretty good when they’re ripe, but their thick skins and tannins make them less fun to eat than table grapes. Table grapes are crisp and refreshing, but they wouldn’t make great wine because they just aren’t ripe enough, and they don’t have the skin-to-seed-to-pulp ratio that gives wine its flavor and structure.
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