The grape, a small, vinous fruit which grows in bunches, is a member of the species Vitis vinifera and one of the oldest plants cultivated by man – grapevines are known to have existed in Ancient Egypt.
Grape cultivation is divided into four main categories: dessert, or table, grapes, wine grapes, grapes to be dried and processed into raisins, and grapes which will have their juices extracted and made into unfermentcd grape juice.
All grapes run the gamut of colour from so-called ‘white’ (in reality pale yellow or green) to ‘black’ (in reality light to deep dark purple). Dessert grapes are usually larger than any other variety, with a sweeter taste and better appearance.
Wine grapes fundamentally affect the distinctive characteristics of their finished wine product. As a rule, white grapes are used to make the lighter white wines – Riesling is a good example. The lighter purple grapes, such as Traminer or Grenache are used to make either the deeper, heavier white wines or roses, while the deep dark purple grapes, such as pinot noir are used for Burgundy or other full-bodied red wines. In the case of many German, Alsatian and Californian wines, the finished wine is often named after the grape used.
The grape flourishes in warm, temper-ate climates. Spain, South Africa, Aus-tralia and California are therefore all important dessert grape-producing areas, while France, Italy, Greece and, to an increasing extent, the United States and Israel, cultivate large quantities of wine grapes.