There certainly is no dearth of table grape varieties out of California.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture names at least 80 kinds of grapes that are produced in the Golden State, and some growers offer cultivars that are not included on the official list.
Flame seedless accounts for the most fresh-market acreage in the state with 14,606 bearing acres, according to the USDA, followed by Scarlet Royal with 6,810 acres, crimson seedless with 6,800 acres, red globe with 6,529 acres and Autumn King with 5,952 acres.
Grower-shippers say it’s hard to pick a favorite.
“One good thing about the whole industry, everything eats pretty good, no matter what the variety is,” said Jeff Olsen, president of the Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, Calif.
All the grapes are bigger than they were five or six years ago, thanks to new trellis systems and changes in spacing practices, he said.
“Everybody is trying to get the most production per acre,” Olsen said. “Bigger fruit makes bigger production.”
There’s been a trend toward proprietary varieties over the past five years or so, as suppliers try to capture buyers’ attention with their own unique offerings, he said.
Delano, Calif.-based Sunview Marketing International, for example, launched its Sweet Carnival table grape last year, and Mitch Wetzel, vice president of sales and marketing, expects it to gain even more momentum this season.
“It’s going to be even bigger this year, with substantial increases in volume,” he said.
Sweet Carnival, available exclusively from Sunview, will be available from September to mid- to late December.
Wetzel described Sweet Carnival as “a golden grape with high flavor and unique taste.”
Another new variety Sunview debuted a couple of years ago, which continues to attract a larger following, is the red seedless Sparkle grape, he said.
It’s a crisp, early-season variety with a high brix level and clean texture, Wetzel said.
Top Brass Marketing Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., grows flames, Timco, Sweet Scarlet, Scarlet Royal, Jack Salute, Allison and Krissy in the red seedless category and sugraone, Ivory, Princess, Great Green, Sweet Globe, Autumn King and Luisco in the green seedless category, said Brett Dixon, president.
Higher-flavored varieties are also becoming very popular, he said.
The company will market Candy Crunch, Candy Drops and Candy Snaps this year with Sweet Bond, Candy Hearts and Gracenote coming off next season.
“We are highly anticipating strong demand in these categories and intend on packing the standup pouches as well as 2-pound clamshells in these very flavorful varieties,” Dixon said.
Fresno, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC recently expanded its Dulcinea label to include the table grape category, said Earl McMenamin, sales manager for Mexico and California table grapes.
Concord and Thomcord grape program launched last season by Pacific Trellis will be expanded this year, McMenamin said.
The company decided to reintroduce the seeded, dark-purple concord variety because of its long history, McMenamin said.
“The concord has been around for many, many years,” he said.
“People really seem to enjoy it, so we’re expanding upon it.”
The Thomcord variety is seedless, has a semi-thick skin and is dark purple and red in color.
The large, red Sweet Celebration, a proprietary, mid-season, low-acid grape is the largest-selling table grape from Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros., said John Pandol, special projects director.
The company continues to experiment with the early, white Valley Pearl variety, which has a lot of positive characteristics, like size and yields, but tends to turn yellow, he said.
The company will continue to work on that shortcoming, Pandol said.
Bakersfield-based Anthony Vineyards has “a laundry list of varieties” in the San Joaquin Valley, said Bob Bianco, co-owner.
The list includes the proprietary Candy Snap, a red grape that is not too big but tastes delicious, he said.
“They call it Candy Snap because it tastes like candy,” he said. “It’s very sweet.”
Sweet Scarlett is another outstanding, crunchy, sweet grape, he said.
And Anthony Vineyards will ship the black Candy Dream out of Coachella and the San Joaquin Valley next season, he said.