Bay Area California wine grapes for home winemakers

What’s the Difference Between Wine Grapes and Table Grapes? A Comprehensive Guide

Wine grapes and table grapes are two distinct varieties of grapes that have different properties and uses. While wine grapes are typically used for making wine, table grapes are consumed as a fruit or added to salads, desserts, or other dishes. But what exactly sets these two types of grapes apart? In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the differences between wine grapes and table grapes, from their origins to their physical and chemical properties.

The difference between table grapes and wine grapes is a question that many people have but are too afraid to ask. The truth is, there are many differences between the two, starting with the species of grape they originate from.

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Origins of Wine Grapes and Table Grapes

Wine grapes and table grapes have different origins. Wine grapes come from the species Vitis Vinifera, which is native to the Mediterranean region. Vitis Vinifera is a highly diverse species that includes thousands of grape cultivars, many of which are used for wine production. Some of the most common wine grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

In contrast, table grapes can come from different species, such as Vitis Labrusca, Vitis Rotundifolia, or Vitis aestivalis. These grape species are native to North America and have been used for table grapes for centuries. Some of the most popular table grape varieties include Concord, Thompson Seedless, Red Globe, and Flame Seedless.

Skin Thickness

One of the main differences between wine grapes and table grapes is the thickness of their skin. Wine grapes have thicker skins than table grapes, which is a key factor in making wine. The skin of wine grapes contains high levels of tannins, pigments, and other compounds that contribute to the flavor, color, and structure of the wine. Tannins are astringent substances that give the wine its characteristic mouthfeel and help it age well. Pigments, such as anthocyanins, give red wine its color and also have antioxidant properties. Other compounds in grape skins, such as resveratrol and quercetin, are believed to have health benefits for humans.

Table grapes have thin skin that is easy to chew, but wine grapes have thicker skin that is ideal for making red wine. The thick skin of wine grapes is perfect for imparting tannins and producing the deep red color of the wine.

In contrast, table grapes have thin skins that are easy to chew and swallow. The thin skin of table grapes allows for easy access to the juicy flesh inside and makes them more pleasant to eat. However, the lack of tannins and pigments in table grapes makes them less suitable for wine production.


Another difference between wine grapes and table grapes is their sweetness. Wine grapes are typically much sweeter than table grapes, which is a crucial factor in winemaking. Grapes need a high sugar content to be converted into alcohol by yeast, which is the basis of wine production. The sweetness of grapes is determined by several factors, including variety, climate, and ripeness. In general, wine grapes are harvested later in the season than table grapes, allowing their sugar content to increase. Wine grapes are typically harvested when their sugar content is between 22 and 30%, while table grapes are harvested when their sugar content is between 10 and 15%.

Size and Shape

Wine grapes and table grapes also differ in size and shape. Wine grapes are generally smaller and rounder than table grapes, with a thicker skin and a higher seed-to-flesh ratio. The smaller size of wine grapes allows for more efficient extraction of juice during winemaking and also contributes to a more concentrated flavor. The thicker skin of wine grapes provides a higher level of protection against disease and pests, which is important in vineyards where pesticide use is minimized.

Table grapes, on the other hand, are larger and oval-shaped, with thinner skin and a lower seed-to-flesh ratio. The larger size of table grapes makes them more visually appealing and also contributes to a more juicy and refreshing eating experience. However,

the higher water content and lower sugar content in table grapes make them less suitable for winemaking.

Vineyard Yield

The yield of wine grapes and table grapes also differs significantly. Wine grapes have a lower yield than table grapes, which means that fewer grapes are produced per acre of vineyard. The lower yield of wine grapes is partly due to the thicker skins and smaller size, which makes them more labor-intensive to harvest. In addition, winemakers typically use less productive grapevine cultivars and practice more intensive pruning and canopy management to enhance grape quality and concentration. A typical yield of wine grapes is around 2 to 4 tons per acre, depending on the grape variety, region, and growing conditions.

Table grapes, on the other hand, have a higher yield than wine grapes. Table grape producers use a trellis system that allows the grape bunches to hang without touching each other, providing the ability to produce up to 30 pounds of fruit per vine. The high yield of table grapes is desirable for commercial growers, as it allows them to produce a high volume of grapes for the fresh fruit market. However, this high yield comes at the expense of grape quality and flavor, as the grapes may be diluted in their sugar and flavor due to the high water content.

The differences between wine grapes and table grapes are many and varied. While both types of grapes are enjoyed for their unique qualities, they have distinct physical and chemical properties that make them better suited for different uses. Wine grapes are thick-skinned, small, and high in sugar, making them ideal for winemaking. Table grapes, on the other hand, have thin skin, are large and juicy, and have lower sugar content, making them perfect for snacking and culinary uses.

Understanding the differences between wine grapes and table grapes is essential for wine enthusiasts, grape growers, and anyone who appreciates the taste and complexity of grapes. Whether you’re planning to make your own wine, grow a grapevine in your backyard, or simply enjoy a delicious grape snack, knowing the nuances of grape varieties can help you make the most of your experience. So the next time you head to the grocery store or visit a vineyard, take a closer look at the grapes you’re purchasing and appreciate the unique qualities that make them so special.