Winemaker’s Blog

Winemaker Bill Cates

Nov. 2012

Of all the fruits on this planet none is as versatile or as useful as the grape. No fruit garners as much devotion as the grape. Apples and olives have their adherents and devotees but lets look at the record.

The grape grower can produce things the apple or olive orchardist could only dream of. Think of table grapes, raisins, grape sweeteners, grape seed oil, grape seed extract, resveratrol (the antioxidant from the red grape skins), grape leaves for culinary purposes and the crowning achievement – WINE in all its thousands of expressions from ten thousand documented varieties of the grape.

From the apple orchard we do get a wonderful assortment of apples and then there is apple cider, hard cider and apple butter. Olives, and they are in the fruit family, provide us with olives, olive oil and olive oil soap. Without a doubt that puts the grape in first place followed by the apple then the olive.

As for the farming involved, apple trees are not that easy to grow and maintain. And olive trees are picky about the climate. But grapevines will grow just about anywhere with little or no care. In some places they grow so readily grapevines are listed as noxious weeds. (Weed is a subjective word anyhow but it usually means a native plant that grows aggressively where you don’t want it.) Grapevines can grow in wet climates or dry climates, hot or cool regions. If they get about 1500 hours of sunshine they can ripen fruit. And, they can grow from seeds or cuttings. Without even watering or fertilizing them grapevines can smother trees (including apple and olive trees).

If there’s a god or goddess for apple cider or olive oil he/she doesn’t get much attention. The grape, on the other hand, has Dionysus the Greek god of the grape harvest, ritual madness and ecstasy. The Romans picked up on a good idea and changed the name to Bacchus and extended his range of influence far beyond the harvest.

Why there isn’t a day of recognition, a holiday to honor the glories of the grape, is beyond me. Some things are just taken granted, I suppose. But think about this – if the Vikings had stuck around for four or five hundred years and created maps of the New World rather than let some guy named Amerigo Vespucci steal their thunder this continent might still be called Vineland. The grapevine loves America.