Grapes grow in clusters of 6 to 300, and can be crimson, black, dark blue, yellow, green and pink. "White" grapes are actually green in color, and are evolutionarily derived from the red grape. Mutations in two regulatory genes of white grapes turn off production of anthocyanins which are responsible for the color of red grapes. Anthocyanins and other pigment chemicals of the larger family of polyphenols in red grapes are responsible for the varying shades of purple in red wines.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 75,866 square kilometres of the world are dedicated to grapes. Approximately 71% of world grape production is used for wine, 27% as fresh fruit, and 2% as dried fruit. A portion of grape production goes to producing grape juice to be reconstituted for fruits canned "with no added sugar" and "100% natural". The area dedicated to vineyards is increasing by about 2% per year.
The following table of top wine-producers shows the corresponding areas dedicated to grapes for wine making:
|United States||4,150 km²|
There are several sources of the seedlessness trait, and essentially all commercial cultivators get it from one of three sources: Thompson Seedless, Russian Seedless, and Black Monukka, all being cultivars of Vitis vinifera. Numerous seedless cultivars, such as Einset Seedless, Reliance and Venus, have been specifically cultivated for hardiness and quality in the relatively cold climates of north-eastern United States and southern Ontario. Bright green and elongated or round, the popular Sugraone grape offers a light, sweet flavor and distinctive crunch.
A raisin is any dried grape. While raisin is a French loanword, the word in French refers to the fresh fruit; grappe (whence the English grape is derived) refers to the bunch (as in une grappe de raisins).
A currant is a dried Zante grape, the name being a corruption of the French raisin de Corinthe (Corinth grape). Note also that currant has come to refer also to the blackcurrant and redcurrant, two berries completely unrelated to grapes.
A sultana was originally a raisin made from a specific type of grape of Turkish origin, but the word is now applied to raisins made from common grapes and chemically treated to resemble the traditional sultana.
Although adoption of wine consumption is not recommended by some health authorities, a significant volume of research indicates moderate consumption, such as one glass of red wine a day for women and two for men, may confer health benefits. Emerging evidence is that wine polyphenols like resveratrol provide physiological benefit whereas alcohol itself may have protective effects on the cardiovascular system.
Protection of the genome through antioxidant actions may be a general function of resveratrol. In laboratory studies, resveratrol bears a significant transcriptional overlap with the beneficial effects of calorie restriction in heart, skeletal muscle and brain. Both dietary interventions inhibit gene expression associated with heart and skeletal muscle aging, and prevent age-related heart failure.
Synthesized by many plants, resveratrol apparently serves antifungal and other defensive properties. Dietary resveratrol has been shown to modulate the metabolism of lipids and to inhibit oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and aggregation of platelets.
Resveratrol is found in wide amounts among grape varieties, primarily in their skins and seeds which, in muscadine grapes, have about one hundred times higher concentration than pulp. Fresh grape skin contains about 50 to 100 micrograms of resveratrol per gram.
Red wine offers health benefits more so than white because many beneficial compounds are present in grape skin, and only red wine is fermented with skins. The amount of fermentation time a wine spends in contact with grape skins is an important determinant of its resveratrol content. Ordinary non-muscadine red wine contains between 0.2 and 5.8 mg/L , depending on the grape variety, because it is fermented with the skins, allowing the wine to absorb the resveratrol. By contrast, a white wine contains lower phenolic contents because it is fermented after removal of skins.
Wines produced from muscadine grapes may contain more than 40 mg/L, an exceptional phenolic content. In muscadine skins, ellagic acid, myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, and trans-resveratrol are major phenolics. Contrary to previous results, ellagic acid and not resveratrol is the major phenolic in muscadine grapes.
Grape seed oil from crushed seeds is used in cosmeceuticals and skincare products for many perceived health benefits. Grape seed oil is notable for its high contents of tocopherols (vitamin E), phytosterols, and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid, oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.