How many grapes in a bottle?
One correct answer is, "it varies." Another reasonable response is, "What difference does it make?" But it's an interesting wine-trivia point, and as soon as this question showed up in my E-mail the other day, I knew I wasn't going to be satisfied until I came up with an answer.
As it turns out, although the amount varies significantly depending on the grape variety and the nature of the wine, a typical bottle contains the squeezings from a lot more grapes than I had expected. For high-quality dry table wines, it appears that you can count on roughly 600 to 800 grapes per bottle, which may be about eight bunches of grapes per bottle or about five bottles from a healthy grapevine. (Dessert wines, using shriveled grapes for their concentrated juice, will have even more.)
A good summary appears on the Website of Napa's Livingston Moffett Winery, which points out that an average wine grape weighs about 2 grams - 15 grapes per ounce - and that there are about 75 grapes in a cluster or bunch. A grapevine produces about 40 clusters, more than 13 pounds of fruit. Livingston works this out to about 590 grapes in a bottle.
Many top wines put even more grapes in the bottle. For example, Scott Hendricks, of Washington State's Windrow Vineyards, said he got an average of 68 old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon grapes per cluster last year, each cluster weighing 3.7 ounces, which works out to more than 860 grapes in a bottle. And Chateau Palmer's Philippe Delfault, responding through spokesman Randy Resnick, said this noteworthy Bordeaux property uses about a kilogram of grapes for a standard bottle. "Given that a Cabernet Sauvignon grape weighs about 1.3 gram and a Merlot 1.5 gram, I leave you to figure out the math," Delfault said. Fair enough: That's 769 Cabernet grapes or 667 Merlot grapes per bottle, or somewhere in between for Palmer's blend of both grapes with a little Petit Verdot.
If you think of this in terms of sitting at the dinner table munching grapes off a bunch, that's a lot of grapes - but bear in mind that most fine-wine grapes are smaller than table grapes.
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Frequent readers will notice that I seldom rate New World Chardonnays. As a matter of personal preference, I'm not wild about the oaky, buttery style that predominates in these wines. But based on a retailer's recommendation, I gave this midrange Argentine offering a try, and I have to say it was appealing enough to bring me back for a second glass. A clear, bright-gold color betrays the presence of oak and lots of it, but there's good tropical fruit in the aroma, too, pineapple and dates and plenty of them, along with buttery scents. Big tropical fruit jostles with sweet buttery oak for space on the palate, but to the wine's credit, there's crisp fresh-fruit acidity to hold it in balance. U.S. importer: Billington Distributors Inc., Lorton, Va. (May 13, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: Works very well with a spring asparagus risotto and fresh asparagus spears rolled in ham.
Where is Madeira?
More Riesling and Chardonnay
Essential Wine Tasting Guide
If this dilemma sounds all too familiar, I invite you to take a look at Glen Green's trademarked new Essential Wine Tasting Guide.
Glen, a wine lover and professional wine maker in Australia and France, has created a remarkable little quick-reference guide to serious wine tasting in a slick, portable format that literally slips into your shirt pocket, wallet or purse. Slip it out, open it up, and it unfolds to reveal 34 mini-pages of compact wine-tasting information including more than 1,000 specific descriptions to help guide you in the analytical tasting of wine. Just 3 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches, it's about the size of a business card, and it comes with a clear plastic holder to keep it like new.
I was so impressed that I asked Glen's permission to offer the Essential Wine Tasting Guide for sale on Wine Lovers' Page. It's $8.95 plus $2 shipping and handling in the U.S., $4 in other countries. If you would like to take a closer look, the Guide is on display at http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/click.pl?url=www.WineLoversPage.com/guide.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Vol. 3, No. 17, May 14, 2001