Why Do We Use Grapes to Make Wine?
Ever wonder why wine is made from the juice of grapes, and not, say, the juice from apples or oranges or mangoes? After all, the mango is a ridiculously tasty fruit that everyone loves – why not build on that love and make it alcoholic as well? Is the grape lobby super strong? Is it because grapes are totally fun and satisfying to crush – the fruit equivalent to bubble wrap?
All good questions. Actually, people do make wine from other fruits – and vegetables and grains as well. But there's a reason why grapes were selected to be the poster child for winemaking. It turns out that after centuries of experimentation, grapes were found to have more water and sugar (and at a useful ratio) than their fruity peers, and therefore are more conducive for fermentation, the chemical reaction that converts sugar into alcohol. Other fruits can be fermented, true, but most don't take to the process well and simply end up tasting like produce that's gone bad.
Grapes also have the perfect balance of sugars, acids and tannins for creating a long-lasting, tasty beverage. The fruit lends itself so well to winemaking, in fact, that sometimes wine could even be made by accident if you don't clean out the crisper in your fridge regularly. OK, that's an exaggeration, but the takeaway message is this: Grapes are just begging to be made into wine. And we lushes are happy to oblige.
So now that you know why grapes were picked to be the wine ambassador, perhaps your next question is this: Even though grapes are the best for winemaking, can other fruits be made into wine? Like the bag of moldy oranges in my fridge? OK, first of all, ewww. And secondly, the answer is yes, there are other fruits, vegetables and grains (but probably not that bag of funky oranges) that tolerate the fermentation process well. Some of these so-called "country wines" are made with everything from potatoes to cactus, and many of these drinks have strong regional followings. Most need a hand with the fermentation process, however, with additional sugar, fruit acid and/or tannins, and are considerably more difficult to make.
If you're interested in crafting some backyard hooch out of the items in your fruit bowl, there are recipes for that. Go nuts. But here's what I'd recommend: Stick with the tried and true. Grapes reign supreme in the wine world for good reason, and you can taste-test the subtle differences between varieties and blends yourself through Tasting Room's tasting kit. Sometimes you just shouldn't mess with tradition.