Wine makers have been making wine from grapes for thousands of years, from as early as 4,000 BC. But why grapes? There are other types of “fruit wines”, made with other fruits, why aren’t they as popular as regular wine?
Turning grapes to wine is easy.
Grapes really like to be fermented. Or rather yeast really likes to ferment grapes. Either way, as soon as you crush them, fermentation starts. Fruit flies transport yeast back and forth from place to place, so that most grapes already have wild yeast on them. Once a grape gets crushed and the inner “must” leaves these little berries, yeast is on the job. Most grapes fit yeast nutritional needs perfectly, containing the perfect amount of acids, enzymes, sugar, water and other nutrients needed to sustain a full fermentation into a wine club worthy beverage.
Grape wine making may indeed have been invented by accident, by leaving a large bunch of grapes in a clay bowl. The weight of the grapes on top crushes a few on the bottom, starting the process. Finding someone dumb enough to taste the old-squished-grape-juice would be a challenge today, but those were simpler times then. Exactly how all wine making began is a topic beyond me, but there’s one thing certain; grapes are a pretty ideal food for yeast, and so are great for wine making. It stands to reason then that a tradition of fermenting fruit into wine would start with the easiest fruit to ferment into something actually drinkable: grapes. Once a method for making get-me-drunk juice was known, why bother trying with fruits that don’t quite perform? And so, grapes took dominance.
Vines are neat.
Well, actually, most vines are not neat. They are hard to kill little suckers that overrun everything. Instead of investing time and energy into building their own support, they grab onto anything available, pulling themselves into the sunlight. Grapes growers use this tactic to their advantage, growing extra fruit instead of support structure.
Want a grape vine that only comes up to a your shoulders? No problem. Grape vines can be easily redirected to grow exactly were needed due to their higher flexibility, unlike bushes or trees. They just need something to grow on. As with most fruiting plants, grapes do require pruning to maintain proper productivity. It’s nice having the pruning work right were you want it: not so high that you need a ladder and not so low that you have to stoop. Having the grapes on raised vines helps with harvest, too.
Compared to other berries, grapes are also easier to pick. Grabbing a large clump of grapes is much easier than picking other berries one at a time.
Grapes grow practically everywhere. From Canada to South America, Europe and even Australia. Very few locations refuse to grow grapes of either one type or another. They are also very drought resistant, often making a higher quality wine club when things get dry.
All these reasons don’t mean that fruit wines are impossible. People do use extra fruit produce to make wine much the same way grapes are used. The difference is difficulty. Most grapes are like pre-packaged little wine packets, just waiting to be smashed and set to making wine. Other fruits often require extra sugar, nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium for proper yeast nutrition. This is why there are few (if any) offerings for a “fruit” wine club.
For many people, grape wine is the only wine, for good reason. It is a sophisticated drink with a long history of tradition and a huge variety. Flavors and aromas of almost all other fruit can be found in well made grape wines. Why not do some wine exploring of your own; grab a wine club membership to the most socially influential alcoholic beverage ever created.