Argil and sand
These are the best kinds of soil for growing grape vines, and both are typical of the sunny Mediterranean.
The Roman God of wine and of the September harvest, he’s often depicted with a garland of grape vines on his head and a glass of wine in his hand. He’s become the symbol of those who love wine and grapes. His Greek name is Dionysus, the God of Wine.
There are two main grape families, each with hundreds of different cultivars (varieties): the wine grapes have thicker skins and are smaller in size. Table grapes have a higher sugar content with smaller seeds and thinner skins.
Along with being enjoyed fresh, fermented in wine, aged in vinegar or squeezed for juice, dried grapes—raisins—are excellent in both savory and sweet dishes. They add flavor and delight in vegetable dishes, and sweets. “Muscat” wine (which comes from “musty” grapes) is a classic dessert wine.
Even the Catholic religion celebrates the fermented juice of grapes: it represents the blood of Christ during the Eucharist, which Jesus passed on to his disciples during the Last Supper.
The fox that couldn’t reach the bunch of grapes is featured in a famed fable by Aesop, which illustrates the concept of cognitive dissonance. The fox disdains the grapes, despite trying his very hardest to reach them.
Around 8 thousand years ago, in the Asian state of Georgia, the first grapevines were cultivated. In all probability, the fruit was not only eaten, but used for wine as well.
With their hieroglyphics, the ancient Egyptians have left visual traces of eating grapes and drinking wine. This tradition was exported to Europe, and embraced by the Greeks and Romans.
One of the world’s most popular grape varieties, Isabella is black in color and has the sweet taste of strawberries. In Italy, it’s also used for a popular, slightly alcoholic drink, “il fragolino”.
Beyond the fruit bowl: many varieties of grapes are used for delicious jams, gelatins and non-alcoholic drinks. A tip for a tasty, autumnal jam: concord grapes with a dash of cinnamon.
Grapes are one of the most caloric fruits, and are also used as a natural sweetener. It can replace sugar in many recipes.
Along with the grapes themselves, the vine leaves are also edible. Picked fresh and then steamed, they are used to wrap rice and meats. It’s a traditional part of Greek and Lebanese cooking.
Wine grapes are picked fresh and then pressed without their stalks, they become must—the first step before becoming wine. Cooked must is also an ingredient in many sweets like puddings and jams.
New Year’s Eve
In Spain, the twelve strokes before midnight should be marked by eating 12 grapes. And it’s the time to make a wish: the grapes will bring you 12 months of good luck.
The symbolic cake of the Italian city of Milan, famous throughout the world as a traditional Christmas dessert, the recipe for panettone goes back about 500 years. One of its main ingredients, along with candied fruit, is raisins (or dried grapes).
This is a grape variety from a small area in the Northern Italian region of Piemonte. Famous in ancient times, today the Quagliano grape is rare. It produces an excellent, sweet red wine—a perfect pairing with the region’s classic dessert of hazelnut cake.
Resveratrol is a phenol found in grape skins: it’s a strong antioxidant, and has been the subject of a great deal of scientific research in the recent years. It’s touted as a “long life elixir” and is used in cosmetics and skincare.
The Iranian city of Shiraz was the capital of Persia and is considered to be the Athens of the East. According to many, this is where Syrah (or Shiraz) wine first originated.
One of the most popular and common varieties of table grapes, Thompson Seedless have a yellowish green color and are of a medium-large size. The name is often used to categorize all yellow grapes.
In Italy and Spain, two of the world’s largest producers, grapes are called uva. The name comes from the Latin verb, uvere, which means being filled with moisture. Grapes, in fact, are about 80% water.
On a small island in the Venetian archipelago, an ancient grape variety, was found and saved. The wine it produces is called Venissa, and it is known as “golden wine”. Produced in small quantities, it can be tasted on the tiny island within the 3-Michelin starred restaurant of the same name.
What’s eating Gilbert Grape
Famous grapes: the Grapes were the protagonists of a sweet, touching 1993 film starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Xarel-lo is a Spanish variety of grape from Catalonia. It makes up the famous Spanish sparkling wine, Cava.
Now a three-Michelin-star restaurant, Noma has changed, but not necessarily on the plate. According to Kenneth Foong, it's all about the way the team works, which is closer to a tech company than a traditional restaurant. Read our exclusive interview with Noma's head chef.