Table grapes are a special fruit commodity that consumers absolutely love and wait for each growing season. There are so many unique elements which make them fun and delicious for all ages, but this fruit is one of the most technical and industry regulated products on the market. From the consumer’s perspective, flavor and quality are two of the most important factors when buying them at the grocery store, but for the farms who grow them, there is much criteria that is managed before the grapes are taken to the commercial parts of the market. Let’s take a look at some of the most important areas which must be examined before they are eligible to be sold in the US.
Degrees Brix is the sugar content which is measured in fruits. One degree of Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and this represents the strength of the solution as a percentage by mass. Each Divine Flavor grape variety is represented by a different amount of Brix content.
There are over 25 commercial varieties and each of them, being a white, red, or black grape have a different Brix content. Depending on the specific variety, each will have a special flavor because the combination of acidity and Brix, which will create a unique tasting experience in each grape. The Divine Flavor grapes are always grown to its full Brix potential because our vineyards know when to harvest them at their peak.
2.- Size & Weight
Weights and sizes are an important element to packing grapes. To make sure our customers get the best experience, our harvesting teams are devoted to picking and packing only the best grapes that mature to the sizes that are required by the market.
Generally, the required berry sizes are at least 9/16th – 10/16th of an inch in diameter and higher. Most presentations, whether packed in bags or clamshells, the size is 12/16th- 15/16th.
For consumers, this means they are eating the perfect sized grape with a delicious crunch. Bags and clamshell presentations are always weighed/measured to make sure the weights reflect the presentation’s unit of measurement.
3.- Temperature & Cold Storage
High-quality grapes will have longer shelf life when stored in cold conditions. Once harvested, picked and packed, grapes are taken from the vineyards to the farm’s pre-cooling storage. This process allows the grapes to transition from the hot weather they are grown in, to cooler temperatures to start preserving the quality of the fruit.
From there, the grapes are transported to the Divine Flavor distribution center where they are inspected by quality control specialist and USDA inspectors. At each point of the supply chain process, grapes are stored at a minimum temperature of 30-32°F and with a target of 90-95 percent relative humidity. Grapes generally have a longer shelf life than other berries and keeping them in cold temps keeps them at their best and for consumer to enjoy longer.
4.- Avoiding Defects
Just like any other fruit or vegetables, table grapes can also experience quality defects such as scarring, shriveling, and shatter (which is when the grapes separate from the bunch). All these defects are avoided when the grapes are tended and cared for during the growing process. Grapes are a very special fruit commodity which require a lot of attention.
Grape specialist and harvest engineers spend much time working with the farmers who pick and pack the table grape to make sure they are handled delicately and strategically so grapes grow to their fullest potential. Because minimal agricultural applications are used on Divine Flavor grapes, generally the scarring comes from leaves or branches touching the bunches during the growing process. When grapes are separated from the bunch, this is referred to as shatter, which means the weight of the berry is too heavy for the bunch. This is caused by having more Brix than the variety can endure and when the fruit is not picked at the right moment.
5.- USDA Requirements
In addition to having great quality, flavor, size, and storing temperatures, table grapes being imported into the United States must also be inspected by the USDA with acceptable results. In terms of standards, there are several, but most fall into the categories of U.S. Extra Fancy, U.S. Fancy, and U.S. NO. 1. Each have a different set of criteria depending on the type of berry (Reds, Blacks, or Whites/Greens).
The most important factors when being inspected are mostly related to the following categories:
1.- The actual berry (grape) – maturity, firmness, attached to stems, not shriveled, not split, cracked or wet.
2.- The bunch- being well filled and not excessively tight for the variety.
3.- The stems- being well developed and strong, not dry or brittle.
4.- The berries are free from- decay, sunburns, spots, and scars.
5.- The stems are free from- mold and decay.
6.- Sizes and weights for specific varieties meet the regulation. Some varieties will be required that 90% of the bunch will need to have at least 9/16thof an inch in diameter where others will need 75% of the size 10/16th. The weight of the grape bunches shall not be less than one-fourth of a pound. This, referring to Fancy and Extra Fancy regulations. Some criteria is slightly different between the two standards, and also with U.S. NO. 1 having additional details for this type of table grape.
The process of USDA inspections plays an important role to making sure consumers get the best product, from a technical and industry point of view. Harvesting grapes has some of the most stringent measures when compared to other produce commodities, which is why only experienced farmers are able to produce them. Each of the Divine Flavor ranches produce handcrafted bunch of berries to achieve the best quality from an industry standpoint and also for the final consumer. With so many varieties to choose from, each having a unique tasting experience, table grapes must be grown with precision and careful attention they deserve.
For more information, please contact:
Public Relations Coordinator, Divine Flavor, LLC