What are Cotton Candy Grapes?

by Charlie
Cotton Candy Grapes

Grapes are such a wonderful fruit – sweet, juicy, sometimes crisp, and come in a variety of green, pink, red, and dark purple shades. Lots of varieties have been produced to be seedless and make them more appetizing for those of us who hate dealing with seeds and pips.

What are Cotton Candy Grapes? Cotton Candy Grapes are quite literally the sweetest grapes you will ever taste – and yes, they really do taste just like cotton candy! They are a hybrid grape originally produced in California and sold by Grapery in Bakersfield, CA since 2011.  

This incredibly sweet and delicious grape variety was patented in 2010 and is produced in California by Grapery from an amazing 100 acres of vine!  It is also now grown in Peru, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Spain, and Italy. 

What makes this particular grape so wonderfully sweet is its extremely high level of natural sugar. The Cotton Candy variety has 18 grams sugar per 100g weight making it the highest in sugar by approximately 2 grams!

What are Cotton Candy Grapes Made of?

The Cotton Candy Grape was created after many years of combining various grape varieties. The product we know today is a hybrid of a Concord grape variety and many other varieties to make it not only the sweetest of the bunch but also firmer and seedless. 

This whole crossbreeding process took a whopping 12 years using test tubes to create this veritable variety and was undertaken by David Cain and his colleagues at International Fruit Genetics in Bakersfield, California.

What’s the Difference Between Cotton Candy Grapes and Regular Grapes?

The main difference between the Cotton Candy variety of grape and other varieties is its sweetness.  This comes from the higher sugar levels within the fruit. The Cotton Candy Grape is a firm, green, seedless variety that tastes exactly like spun sugar. No other grape has this exact taste and that is what makes it so unique.

Are Cotton Candy Grapes Natural?

Well, this depends on your opinion of “natural”. For sure there is nothing chemical in Cotton Candy Grapes to give them their delicious flavor. There are no extra sugars or sweeteners added. They are purely the result of years of hard work combining different grape varieties to make them so sweet. 

So maybe some of you would argue they aren’t natural as they have been manipulated by human intervention, but if you look at it as a form of evolution – it’s totally natural right?

Can You Grow Cotton Candy Grapes?

So you have fallen in love with the delicious sweetness and firm texture of this wonderful grape variety and would like to try and grow some yourself? Well, bad luck – you can’t! That’s the official line anyway as there is a legal patent on this variety. 

Also, as these grapes are seedless you would not be able to grow them from seed.  You could only attempt to grow them from a cutting and no, the stalks you buy them on will not qualify for this purpose.  

So, unless you were to sneak into the fields where they grow these beauties and take cuttings to propagate (no, we are not for one minute suggesting you actually do this!), then quite simply you are out of luck. No can do and let’s be fair – this took 12 years of dedication, funding, and brains to produce so it would be plain wrong to try and just take someone’s hard work and use it for personal gain now wouldn’t it!?

Are There Similar Grapes that You Can Grow?

There are several other sweet grape varieties that you can grow at home. From the beautiful deep purple Concord to the many Muscadine varieties found in several southern states. The Carlos Muscadine grape is a self-pollenating variety meaning you can have just one plant that will give a really good yield if treated right. It’s also great for the beginner to grow so why not give it a go!

Are Cotton Candy Grapes Good For Wine Making?

As this grape variety is so sweet, the Cotton Candy grape isn’t great for making wine but it is by no means impossible. There are a few retailers proclaiming to sell wine made from the Cotton Candy Grape variety. Although they do state that it is a “novelty” wine, we’re not sure if it would be a particularly enjoyable tipple! Also, the blue color is a bit concerning – looks more like something you would use in a camp stove or as engine coolant!

If you are looking for a decent beginner’s home winemaking grape, look no further than the Vitis Vinifera family which consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Merlot, to name just a few! Making wine can be a very rewarding hobby, but also a very frustrating one to get right, and using the Cotton Candy Grape is unlikely to give a good wine.

What are the Best Uses for Cotton Candy Grapes?

The sumptuous sweetness of the Cotton Candy Grape serves it well simply as a table grape. Just eaten on its own as a dessert grape, or incorporated into your favorite sweet recipes, this amazing grape can be enjoyed by all. It can be a great addition to cocktails and a Cotton Candy Grape Daiquiri is a real heaven-sent sensation!

I have also used them to make sorbet, jelly, and simply frozen to enjoy as a cooling summer snack. Another trick is to soak them in a jar of vodka or tequila and serve them on cocktail sticks with cheese and olives – a good old retro 70s-style party pleaser! 

Why are Cotton Candy Grapes So Expensive?

This is a question often asked but the answer lays in the years it took to develop them. Can you imagine the number of test tubes, grape variety samples, and man-hours it took to finally come up with this amazing grape specimen? 12 years of research, trial, expense, and passion – not really things one can put a price on I’m sure you will agree!

The fact that this grape variety was patented once they realized what a winner they were on to makes it all the more valuable. Only certified growers can produce the grape so you can see why it is expensive to buy. 

But like most things, you get what you pay for! With many other grape varieties, the first couple may taste amazing but the taste often fades into just another grape after 3 or 4. With the true Cotton Candy variety, every grape has that incredibly sweet cotton candy taste – no compromise.

Also, the price is higher due to its limited growing season and there is the issue of meeting demand, along with the dictates of weather and crop conditions from year to year.  All of these factors affect the price of fresh produce and in this case, it is all of the above that reflects the cost of the Cotton Candy Grape.

Sure, you can go for cheaper imitations but you may well feel let down after the first couple. So why not treat yourself every so often to a true Cotton Candy Grape but they will cost more than your average grape.

Cotton Candy Grapes: Cost Per Pound

The cost of the Cotton Candy Grape is around the $6 per pound mark, but the Californian ones can retail up to $8.99 per pound in some stores! So keep your eyes open and your taste buds on high alert for this delectably delicious sweet treat!

When are Cotton Candy Grapes Available?

True Cotton Candy Grapes are only grown by Grapery in the USA but as they are now licensed to growers in other countries, you can find them available for longer periods of time. Grapes grown in Mexico for example, are available in stores from April to June, and from Peru, Chile, and Brazil they are available from December to March.  

However, if you want to hold out for the original USA homegrown Californian ones they are available from August to September only. Many people believe the Californian ones have the best taste and this may be because they haven’t traveled so far, but it could also be because Grapery in California take extreme care in producing the best crop possible, and only pick them when they are at their absolute peak ripeness – and they do this consistently well.

The Cotton Candy Grapes from other countries just don’t seem to have this consistent quality and taste, so if you want to get the true spun sugar taste from this variety, wait until the Californian ones hit the stores in August and you won’t be disappointed. But if you absolutely can’t wait, you now have the availability of these wonderfully sweet grapes pretty much all year round apart from October to November!

So if you want to see what all the fuss is about with Cotton Candy Grapes, make a reminder to seek out the US-grown ones from California in August/September and be prepared to pay a premium to get the true spun sugar taste from these plump, juicy green grapes.

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