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Grape – Health Benefits of Grapes

Publicado em 21/05/2011. Revisado por Equipe Editorial a 13 janeiro 2018

The grape is a fruit that grows in tight clusters. It has a white or purple flesh of sweet taste, eaten raw or in juice, although it is chiefly used for making wine. They are also used to make preserves. It contains various minerals and vitamins, and it is considered to be antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic. Grapes are fleshy, rounded fruits that grow in clusters made up of many fruits of greenish, yellowish or purple skin. The pulp is juicy and sweet, and it contain several seeds or pips. It is a well-known fruit; it is eaten raw, although it is mainly used for making wine. Raw grapes are excellent as table dessert, combined with other fruits in fruit salads. Great part of the production is intended for making wines and must, whereas from their seeds we extract the grape seed oil.

The clusters are dried to make raisins; besides, there are multiple preserves made from grapes, like caramel grapes, grape syrup, grapes in alcohol and grape jelly. Grapes supply minerals and vitamins to the organism. They are one of the fruits providing more carbohydrates, although their caloric content is not very high. They contain resveratrol, an antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic compound. From the antiquity, grapes have been given various healing properties. 

Types and Varieties of Grape 

There exist multiple varieties of grape, that can be classified according to their use in table grapes, for making raisins, must, for canning and those intended for obtaining wine. Within this last group are gathered the greater amount of varieties, since grapevine is mainly intended for wine production. At the same time, grapes are differentiated in red and white, according to the type of wine made with them. 

Table grapes: these varieties are intended for fresh consumption. They bear large grapes, of uniform size and colour. The clusters are not compact, favouring their consumption. There are three types of table grapes: white, red and black. The best known white varieties are ‘Almería’, ‘Italia’, ‘Chasselas’, etc. Some red varieties are ‘Cardinal’, ‘Chasselas dorée’, ‘Emperor Queen’ and ‘ Moscatel roja’. Among the black varieties we find ‘Moscatel de Hamburgo’, ‘Alphonse Lavallé ‘ and ‘ Exotic’. 

Grapes for making raisins: these grapes must be of smooth texture and seedless, although there are some varieties with seeds. If they are intended for direct consumption they must be large, but if they have to be used in confectionery they preferred ones are the small. The main varieties intended for this use are ‘Sultanina’, ‘Corintia negra’, ‘Moscatel de Alejandría’ and ‘ Dátil de Beirut’. 

Grapes for natural juice: these varieties must keep their natural taste and aroma after the treatment they are put under for their preservation. In general, the Vitis vinifera grapes do not satisfy these requirements; the most used are ‘ Concord’ and ‘Niágara’, belonging to Vitis labrusca. 

Grapes for canning: they are seedless varieties that are put along with other fruits to make cocktails and fruit salads. The most appreciated variety is ‘Sultanina’. 

Grapes for making wine: it is the main use for which grapevine is intended, so there are no end of suitable varieties for wine processing. These can be classified into black and white grapes, according to the colour of the wine. In Spain, among the black ones we find ‘Bobal’, ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’, ‘Embolicaire’, ‘Forcayat’, ‘Garnacha’, ‘Tintorera’, ‘Merlot’, ‘Monastrell’, ‘Tempranillo’, ‘Pinot Noir’, etc. Among the white varieties we have ‘Airén’, ‘Chardonay’, ‘Macabeo’, ‘Malvasía’, ‘Merseguera’, ‘Moscatel’, ‘Plant nova’ and ‘Riesling’. 

The Plant 

The grapevine belongs to the family of Vitaceous and the sort Vitis. It is cultivated forming shrubs. It is a climbing plant that has a kind of earrings to climb up. It may grow up to 17 meters high if it is not taken care of. Their leaves are alternate and lobulated, composed of five main nerves. They characterise the different varieties. The flowers, of small size, are grouped forming clusters. The petals are free in their base and joined in the apex. The fruit is a berry containing hard seeds. The size ranges from 12mm to 24mm, and varies according to the species. The shape may be spherical, elliptical, ovoid, cylindrical or bent. The colour ranges from yellowish green to black-red. In botanic, the Vitis sort is divided in two sections: Muscadinia and Vitis. 

Section Muscadinia: these grapevines are original from the Southeast of the United States and the north of Mexico. Three species are known, all of them with little commercial interest: Vitis rotundifolia, Vitis munsoniana and Vitis mopenoi. 

Section Vitis: this group gathers the true grapevines. There are multiple species within this section. V. candicans, V. Longii and V. champinii are American species used as rootstock. V. labrusca is an American variety whose fruit is eaten fresh or used for processing natural juice. V. Caribaeae is an original species from the tropical areas of America. It is known as ‘ water liana’ or ‘sour grape’. Some other grapevines of American origin used as understock are V. berlandieri, V. aestivalis, V. cordifolia, V. monticola, V. riparia and V. rupestris. However, the species with greater importance is Vitis vinífera, from which come the main varieties of grape used for making wine. 

Origin and Production 

The grapevine is native to Asia and it is well-known from Pre-history. Its culture began in the Neolithic period and it spread to the rest of Europe, arriving at the American continent. At present, the continent with larger production is Europe. The grapevine is thought to originate in the Caucasus and western Asia and it was probably already harvested in the Palaeolithic. It is certain that there existed wild grapevines during the Tertiary Age. During the Neolithic period (6000 B. C.) the culture of the grapevine was initiated in Asia Minor and the Near East. They gradually selected the species with better production, until they obtained the current grapevines, of great fruit. The Egyptians knew the grapevine, but the Greeks and the Romans where the ones who developed its culture to a greater extent, spreading it all over the Roman Europe. The Spaniards introduced this crop in North America. At present, Europe is the main producing continent, standing for half of the world-wide production of grape. It is followed by Asia. The areas with a smaller amount of grape cultivation are Africa and Oceania. Grape production, both table grape and wine grape, by continents is the following:

Continent   Tons   % 
  Africa   3,176,623   5 
  Asia   13,658,494   22 
  Europe   31,453,476   50 
  North America   7,331,018   12 
  South America   5,297,958   9 
  Oceania   1,395,200   2 
  Total   62,312,769   100 

Source: FAO Production Yearbook, 2000

The great majority of main producers are European. The first is Italy, followed by France, the United States and Spain. The following table shows the countries with greater production of table and wine grape:

  Country   Tons 
  Italy   9,773,641 
  France   7,400,000 
  The United tates   6,792,000 
  Spain   5,646,400 
  Turkey   3,650,000 
  China   3,053,427 
  Argentina   2,424,990 
  Iran   2,350,000 
  Germany   1,648,000 
  Chile   1,575,000 

Source: FAO Production Yearbook, 2000

The following table shows the main countries exporting grape (table and wine grape). Italy is the leader, followed by Chile, the United States and South Africa.

  Country   Tons 
  Italy   577,344 
  Chile   473,525 
  The United States   280,155 
  South Africa   183,684 
  Mexico   107,797 
  Spain   98,255 
  The Netherlands   91,278 
  Greece   87,160 
  Belgium-Luxembourg   56,642 
  Turkey   47,943 

Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 2000

Among the import countries, the United States is the first one, followed by Germany, China, United Kingdom and France.

  Country   Tons 
  The United States   383,672 
  Germany   349,411 
  China   163,333 
  United Kingdom   153,546 
  France   142,356 
  Canada   136,687 
  The Netherlands   132,789 
  Belgium-Luxembourg   95,064 
  Poland   88,040 
  Mexico   51,896 

Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 2000 


The time of the year to consume fresh grape starts at the beginning of summer and ends at the beginning of winter. However, nowadays some varieties of table grape are available all the year round, from different origins. They can also be consumed tinned or dried, that is to say, raisins. The following table shows the months of availability of some varieties of grape. The table also indicates the countries exporting and the weight of the packages used.

Origin   Months of availability United Kingdom   Weight of the packages 
  Almería   April-May   5kg 
  Cardinal   November-January     
  Emperor   March-April     
  Flame seedless   November-January     
  Imperial   December-January     
  Perlette   December-January     
  Ribler   February-March     
  Ruby seedlesss   February-March     
  Thompson seedlesss   February     
  Calmeria   February-April   5kg 
  Flame seedlesss   January-June     
  Ohanez   May-April     
  Purple cornichon   February-May     
  Red emperor   January-June     
  Sultana   February-April     
  Thompson seedless   February-April     
  Waltham cross   February-April     
  Baidior   August-October   3kg 
  Canon Hall   July-October     
  Colman   November-December     
  Leopold Ill   June-December     
  Muscat   July-October     
  Ribier   June-November     
  Royal   June-November     
  Benitaka   April-June and September-January   5/8,2kg 
  Italy   April-June and September-January     
  Muscat   April-June and September-January     
  Perlette   April-June and September-January     
  Redglobe   April-June and September-January     
  Ribier   April-June and September-January     
  Ruby seedless   April-June and September-January     
  Thompson seedless   April-June and September-January     
  Almería   April-June   5/8,2kg 
  Alphonse Lavalle   January-June     
  Black seedless   December-March     
  Christmas Rose   March-May     
  Emperor   March-June     
  Flame seedless   November-March     
  Perlette   November-January     
  Pink muscatel   January-April     
  Redglobe   January-July     
  Ribier   January-June     
  Ruby seedless   January-April     
  Santa Elsana   December-February     
  Sugraone   December-February     
  Thompson seedless   December-May     
  Cardinal   June-October   5/7/8kg 
  Gold   June-October     
  Perlette   June-October     
  Sultana   June-October     
  Superior   June-October     
  Thompson seedless   June-October     
  Crimson seedless   May-August and October-November   5kg 
  Flame seedless   May-August and October-November     
  Kingruby   May-August and October-November     
  Perlette   May-August and October-November     
  Romi   May-August and October-November     
  Sultana   May-August and October-November     
  Superior   May-August and October-November     
  Thompson seedless   May-August and October-November     
  Cardinal   August-October   6kg 
  Alphonse Lavalle   August-October   5/7kg 
  Chasselas   August-October     
  Lival   August-October     
  Muscat of Hamburg   August-October     
  Ática seedless   August-September   5/8,2kg 
  Cardinal   July-August   9kg 
  Sultana   August-November   5/9kg 
  Thompson seedless   August-November   5kg 
  Khismis Chomi   December-May   5kg 
  Perlette   June     
  Sonaka   February-April     
  Tasa-Ganesh   February-April     
  Thompson seedless   February-April     
  Flame seedless   May-June   5kg 
  Mysteri   June-July     
  Perlette   May-June     
  Prime   June-July     
  Springblush   June-July     
  Superior   July-August     
  Thompson seedless   June-July     
  Seedless Varieties       4kg 
  Red and white   September     
  Alfonse Lavalle   July-October   5/6/7kg 
  Cardinal   July-October     
  Italy   August-December     
  Matilde   July-September     
  Muscat   August-December     
  Palieri   August-December     
  Redglobe   September-December     
  Regina   August     
  Regina del Vigneti   July-September     
  Seedless   August-October     
  Sugraone   July-September     
  Vigneti   July-September     
  Vittoria   July-September     
  Wine   September-October     
  LEBANON       5kg 
  Verygo   November-January     
  Flame seedless   May-August   5kg 
  Thompson seedless   July-August     
  Golden champion   July-September   3/4kg 
  Flame seedless   May-August   5kg 
  Perlette   May-August     
  Sultana   May-August     
  Superior   May-August     
  Thompson seedless   May-August     
  Superior   June-July   5kg 
  Thompson seedless   May-June     
  Seedless   July-September   5kg 
  Alfonse Lavalle   November-January   5/8kg 
  Flame seedless   November-January     
  Italy   November-January     
  Ribier   November-January     
  Thompson seedless   November-January     
  Alphonse Lavalle   June-October   10/12/15kg 
  Cardinal   June-October     
  Muscatel   June-October     
  SOUTH AFRICA         
  Biendonne   January-March   9kg 
  Dauphine   April-June   4.5/5kg 
  Erlihane   January   2.5kg 
  Italy   March-May     
  Newcross   March-May     
  Peridot   March-May     
  Queen of the Vineyard   January-February   4kg 
  Victoria   February     
  Walthman cross   February-May     
  Alfonse Lavalle   January-April   9kg 
  Barlinka   March-June   5kg 
  Blackgem   December-January     
  Bonheur   February-May     
  Dan Ben Hannah   January-April     
  The Rochelle   January-May     
  Redglobe   January-May     
  Centennial   February   9kg 
  Festival   December-March   5kg 
  Flame seedless   November-January     
  Muscat   January     
  Sultana   November-March     
  Sun red seedless   February-April     
  Superior   November-December     
  Thompson seedless   December-April     
  Almería   June-January   5kg 
  Alphonse Lavalle   August-September     
  Autumblack   September-December     
  Cardinal   June-January     
  Crimson   September-October     
  Flame seedless   June-July     
  Italy   June-January     
  Muscatel   June-January     
  Napoleon   September-January     
  Redglobe   August-December     
  Rosetti   June-January     
  Thompson seedless   August-December     
  Cardinal   July   6kg 
  Muscat   September-November     
  Centenal   July-October   5kg 
  Sultana   July-October      
  Thompson seedless   July-October     
  Emperor   October-December   5/9/10kg 
  Exotic   July-August     
  Flame seedless   July-August     
  Ruby seedless   September     
  Sugraone   June-July     
  Sugrathirteen   May-July     
  Sultana   July-August     
  Sunset seedless   September-December     
  Thompson seedless   June-September     
  Tudor seedless   August-September     
  Cardinal   January   5kg 
  Flame seedless   According to the market demands   Various 
  Sultana   According to the market demands     

Source: Fresh Product Desk Book, 1998 


In the United States, grapes are usually sold in wood boxes of 11kg. Apart from these traditional boxes, plastic boxes of 0.5 to 1.5kg, painted in bright colours so as to be attractive to the consumer. The new packages try to be more comfortable and appealing for the consumer; the designs incorporate bags with only one raceme, trays with two racimes, etc. 

The European Economic Community gathers the quality standards referring to table grapes in the Commission Regulation (CE) No 2789/1999 of 22 December 1999. According to these standards, the grape clusters and grains must be sound, clean, practically free of insect attacks or diseases, free of abnormal external moisture and any foreign smell or taste. The grains must be well-formed and adhered to the cluster. They must be harvested carefully and in a condition such as to enable them to withstand transport and handling and to arrive in satisfactory condition at their place of destination. Table grapes are graded in three classes according to their quality. 

Extra Class: these grapes are of the best quality. The grains must be free of any defect, hard and well-joined to the cluster. 

Class I: the grains of this class may be less uniform and more separated in the cluster than in the previous class. Slight deformations, slight defects of coloration or very small sun burns are allowed only affecting the skin. 

Class II: these clusters may show slight defects of development, shape and colour. The grains flesh must be sufficiently firm and their distribution in the cluster may be more irregular than for Class I. They might show malformations, defects of coloration, small sun burns, light bruises and alterations of the skin. 

The minimum size required in grams is shown in the following table. There is a distinction between varieties cultivated in greenhouse and outdoors. The latter are differentiated as well in thick grain and small grain varieties.

Greenhouse   Open air     
          Thick grain   Small grain 
  Extra Class   300   200   150 
  Class I   250   150   100 

Concerning tolerances, 10% of the bulk produce shall not fulfil the requirements of the class or the size indicated in the package, except for the Extra class, for which this percentage is 5%. The content of each bulk must be uniform and contain grapes of the same variety, class and degree of maturation. The preparation must guarantee a satisfactory protection for the produce. The materials used must be new and clean and they must contain substances that may affect the content. Each bulk must clearly bear the name of the packer, sender, the variety of grape, the origin and class. 

With regard to raisins or dried grapes, the UN lays down a standard referring to the commercial quality of this produce, the UN/ECE STANDARD DF-11, for reference and non compulsory. The produce must be intact, sound, free of living insects or mites in any stage of development. It must be free from abnormal external moisture and foreign smells or tastes. Its condition must be such as to enable it to withstand transport and handling and to arrive in satisfactory condition at its place of destination. The water content must not be below 13% in any case and not over 31% for the type Moscatel, 23% for the varieties with seeds, and 18% for the seedless varieties. The additives or ingredients added to the raisins during the processing must be allowed in the country of import. Raisins are graded in three classes according to their quality. 

Extra Class: these are the raisins with the best quality. They must have good characteristics of taste, texture and colour. They must have been obtained from mature grapes, practically free of defects except for some slight and very superficial defects, provided they do not affect the quality of the produce. 

Class I: in this case slight defects are allowed within the ranks indicated in the tolerances. 

Class II: defects within the limits indicated in the tolerances are allowed, provided they do not affect the general appearance, quality and presentation of the produce. The sizing for all classes is determined by the maximum number of grains in 100g or by the smallest diameter of the grains. 

Quality Criteria 

Postharvest Atmosphere Management 

Table grapes must be stored at temperatures between -1 and 0ºC and 90-95% of moisture. There must be a suitable air circulation in the camera. Grapes are not sensitive to ethylene, although concentrations over 10ppm may cause the grains to separate from the peduncle. The use of modified atmosphere is not recommended, since it is hardly beneficial. 

Postharvest Problems
Among the different problems that grapes may undergo while stored there are some physiological alterations like watery grains or the berries fall from the peduncle. The most important disease in conservation is the one caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. 

Grains falling: the more mature the fruit is, the worse the problem. This alteration is less frequent in seedless varieties. It normally occurs during the harvesting and handling in the field, although it also takes place afterwards. This problem may be reduced by means of a correct handling and maintaining satisfactory conditions of moisture and temperature. 

Watery grains: The first symptom of this alteration is the appearance of small dark spots in the peduncles of the grains. These spots spread all over the surface. Finally, the grains affected soften and they turn watery. During harvesting and packaging these grains can be removed, although it is very tough to do so. Among the diseases affecting grapes during storage, the grey mould is the most important one. It is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, that may grow at very low temperatures, even at -0,5ºC; this disease spreads from one grain to the other. At the beginning they turn into a brown colour and afterwards they are covered by a grey down. The consequences of this infection may be diminished by means of removing the affected clusters and cooling them as soon as possible. Another system is the sulphur dioxide pulverisation. 

Healthy Effects

Grape, Vitis vinifera / Fam.: Vitaceae
 Note: Composition for 100 g. of fresh product
           Values in ( min. – max. ) format.
Energy: 60.00-79.10 kcal
Fats: 0.10-0.51 g
Fibres: 0.70-1.50 gMineralsCalcium: 9.90-18.00 mg
Zinc: 0.055-0.100 mg
Chlorine: 2.00-2.00 mg
Phosporus: 12.80-20.00 mg
Iron: 0.300-1.240 mg
Magnesium: 7.00-9.30 mg
Manganese: 0.076-0.104 mg
Potasium: 192.00-215.00 mg
Selenium: 1.00-1.69 µg
Sodium: 1.90-8.00 mg
Iodine: 0.700-3.50 µg
Proteins: 0.28-0.68 g
Carbohidrates: 15.24-17.94 gLiposoluble VitaminsA Retinol: 0.00-5.50 µg
A Carotenoids: 17.00-33.00 µg
E or Tocoferol: 0.90-0.90 mg
K or Filoquinone: 3.00-3.00 µgHydrosoluble VitaminsB1 or Thiamine: 0.026-0.050 mg
B2 or Riboflavine: 0.010-0.025 mg
B3 or Niacine: 0.200-0.260 mg
B5 or Pantothenic Acid: 0.050-0.063 mg
B6 or Piridoxine: 0.073-0.100 mg
B9 or Folic Acid: 2.00-43.00 µg
C or Ascorbic Acid: 0.70-4.20 mg

Health Benefits of Grapes
Table grapes are a source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C and flavonoids (myricetin and quercetin). Grapes also contain resveratol, which is another phytochemical. A ration of 125 g supplies approximately 25 % of the daily recommended consumption of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects against various types of cancer and improves the immune functions. Vitamin A provides protection against ocular disorders, and at the same time it is beneficial for the bones development, to maintain the body tissues in good condition, for the reproduction and development of the hormonal and co-enzymatic function. Flavonoids occur among the secondary compounds of fruit and vegetables; when consumed in a varied diet, they are claimed to protect against cancer and some cardiovascular diseases. 

Popular Tradition
Grapes have been employed for a long time with healing purposes. They are laxative and diuretic, specially recommended in cases of weakness or low body defences. They are good to depurate blood and they also prevent osteoporosis. In case of constipation, grapes must be eaten with the skin and the pips, whereas if they are consumed by elderly people or people with weak digestive organs they must be taken in juice. Grapes are laxative and diuretic.

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