What do wine grapes taste like?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What do wine grapes taste like?

—Mitchell, Fairfield, Ohio

Dear Mitchell,

Table grapes—the grapes you can buy at the grocery store and surely have eaten before—are big, crunchy and a bit tart, with thin skins. Wine grapes are smaller, with sweeter flesh but chewier, thicker skins and a higher ratio of skin to pulp, and they have seeds. Wine grapes tend to smell great, but if you pop one in your mouth, you’ll probably be left with a bitter impression from the skins and seeds. That's why you don't see Cabernet or Chardonnay grapes for sale at the grocery store. Muscat grapes are the only grapes I know of that are both wine grapes and good to eat, and you might see them at the market during harvest season.

It’s fascinating to watch winemakers taste grapes when determining when to start harvesting. They typically chew on them for a moment and then spit them out, or they’ll squeeze them to take a look at the color of the seeds, or see how easily they pull off of the vine. If you’re ever around a vineyard during harvesttime, ask to try one.

—Dr. Vinny

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