If variety is the spice of life, Mexican vineyards just may be the place to be.
“As we’ve seen in a lot of categories, we’re seeing new varieties and more offerings as retailers look to differentiate themselves and growers look for ways to see higher returns on their farms,” said Josh Leichter, general manager of Fresno, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC.
Black grapes appear to be regaining their luster, he said, and Pacific Trellis plans to pack more black seedless and red globes this year.
Bakersfield-based Sun World International now has Sugrathirteen grapes (Midnight Beauty) in commercial production in Sonora.
Sun World plans to offer the black grape as well as its Superior Seedless green grapes in a new Together At Last 3-pound Mexican combo pack, said marketing manager Natalie Erlendson.
“The new pack will drive (sales) of black seedless grapes and also increase awareness and favorability for two of our flagship grapes,” Erlendson said.
“We have plans to introduce several other promising seedless varieties there as well.”
To get a head start on the season, several growers including the Molina Group have planted vineyards in the Guaymas area of Sonora, two hours south of Hermosillo.
“Guaymas has only been producing table grapes for about three years,” said Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing for Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Farms, the group’s distribution company.
“We have early superior (sugraones) out of that ranch, which puts us in the sugraone business probably seven to 10 days earlier than most people, expected around May 19 this year,” Havel said.
Fresh Farms is also offering its prime seedless green grape, now in its second year of commercial production.
“It’s an early variety that’s an alternative to the perlette — larger and sweeter,” Havel said.
Jared Lane, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Stevco, home of Grape Man and Supergrape labels, said the grower-shipper plans to have added volume in sugraones and the newer princess seedless grape.
“It’s an extra-large green grape with a hint of muscat flavor that’s predominately grown in the San Joaquin Valley,” he said.
The biggest change Lane sees in Mexican grape varieties is the transition to more red grapes.
“There used to be lot of green grapes in Mexico,” he said, “but red is now preferred in the U.S. for its sweeter taste.”
Some chain stores on the high end are selling three red grapes for one green grape, he said, and on the low end they’re probably 60% red and 40% green.
That’s one of the reason Mexican growers are producing more flame seedless, he said.
Despite its seeds, the red globe remains popular with is big round berries, firm texture and sweet flavour.
“Mexico is getting close to a million boxes of red globes,” said Miguel Suarez, owner of Nogales, Ariz.-based MAS Melons & Grapes LLC.
Latin Americans who grew up eating seeded grapes still love them, he said, even if they move to the U.S.