A grape is the fruit of a vine in the family Vitaceae. It is commonly used for making grape juice, jelly, wine and raisins, or can be eaten raw. Grapes constitute approximately 50% of all fruit grown in the world.
Many species of grape exist including:
- Vitis vinifera, the European winemaking grapes
- Vitis labrusca, the North American table and grape juice grapes, sometimes used for wine
- Vitis riparia, a wild grape of North America, sometimes used for winemaking
- Vitis rotundifolia, the muscadines, used for jelly and sometimes wine
- Vitis aestivalis, the variety Norton is used for winemaking
- Vitis lincecumii (also called Vitis aestivalis or Vitis lincecumii), Vitis berlandieri (also called Vitis cinerea var. helleri), Vitis cinerea, Vitis rupestris are used for making hybrid wine grapes and for pest-resistant rootstocks.
Hybrids also exist, primarily crosses of V. vinifera with one or more varieties of V. labrusca, V. riparia or V. aestivalis. Hybrids tend to be less susceptible to frost and disease (notably phylloxera), but their wine has little of the characteristic "foxy" odor of labrusca.
Currently, a large fraction of the grape crop goes to producing grape juice to be used as a sweetener for fruits canned 'with no added sugar' and '100% natural'.
Grapes are being extensively researched all over the world as a result of the "French Paradox" contrasting the diets of the Frenchwith those of other Western countries, particularly the United States. Despite the fact that the French eat substantially more animal fat, they have a significantly lower incidence of heart disease. Many scientists now believe the reason is the greater consumption of red wine in France. Compounds such as resveratrol have been discovered in grapes. Resveratroland other grape compounds have been positively linked to fighting cancer, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease and other ailments. Although many people wrongly assume that red grapes have the most health benefits, the fact is that grapes of all colors have comparable benefits. Red wine has health benefits not found in white wine because many of these compounds are found in the skins of the grapes and only red wine is fermented with the skins.
Wild grapes are often considered a nuisance weed as they cover other plants and form thick entangling vines.