Grapes vines are one of the world's oldest cultivated plants, with thousands of varieties in cultivation. There are two main types of grapes: bunch grapes and muscadines. These are separated into wine grapes (Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel) and table grapes (Concord, Edelweiss) used for jellies, juice and eating.
European Wine Grapes
European grapes are more pest resistant, but less cold hardy than American grapes. European grapes are the classic choice for sweet, neutral flavor and historic authenticity. The vigorous, moderately hardy, highly productive vines of Cabernet Sauvignon produce small to medium-sized, blue-black fruit with a strong flavor. Chardonnay grapes have white and medium-sized fruits with good flavor; Merlot has medium-sized, deep-black, strong-flavored fruits.
American Wine Grapes
American wine grapes are a bit tarter in flavor than the European varieties. Black Jumbo muscadines are vigorous vines with large, blackish-purple fruit that have a very good taste when ripe. The hardy Catawba vines are moderately vigorous, coppery red bunch grapes with a sweet flavor. Delaware has attractive, hardy foliage with small to medium-sized, light-red flavorful fruits.
French Hybrid Wine Grapes
French hybrid wine grapes combine some of the best qualities of European and American grapes. Marechal Foch has highly productive vines that are hardy and produce small clusters of medium-sized, blue-black fruit with excellent flavor. The vigorous vines of the mild-flavored Aurore, have medium-sized, white fruits with a pinkish blush. The compact vines of Seyval produce medium-sized, white fruits with excellent flavor.
Blue-Black Table Grapes
Concord grapes are very hardy and are probably the most well known in this category. They grow in large clusters and have dark, blue-black, slip-skin fruit (easily removed skin).
Fredonia grapes have large spicy-sweet fruits and are an earlier-ripening variety, similar to the Concord, but of a slightly lower quality.
Black Spanish bunch grapes are juicy and have blackish-blue skin. They're good for jellies, juices and wine.
Yellow-White Table Grapes
Thompson seedless grapes are well-known and have large clusters of greenish-white to golden fruit that are good for both wine and table use.
Niagara is a moderately vigorous vine that produces huge, light-green to white fruits with a tangy-sweet flavor.
Golden Muscat has large clusters of large fruits with a dry-sweet flavor that is excellent when thoroughly ripe.