Concord Grape Wine

Many people are curious as to what the difference is between the grapes you buy at the store and the grapes you use for wine. What’s the difference?

Wine grapes are from the species Vitis Vinifera while Concord grapes (Bull’s Grape) are from the species Vitis Labrusca. Concord grapes got their name from the town in Massachusetts where they were developed. They are currently one of the most produced grapes in the United States.

What is the difference between Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca? There are many differences between these two grape species; the most notable being:

  • Concord grapes and others from the Vitis Labrusca species are considered “slip-skin” grapes. This means that the skin easily separates from the meat of the grape
  • Concord grapes are notably larger and contain more juice than wine grapes
  • V. Vinifera is the parent grape of V. Labrusca
  • Surprisingly, Concord grapes actually contain less sugar than wine grapes
  • Concord grapes are higher in acidity than wine grapes

Concord grape uses:

  • Grape juice
  • Jelly
  • Table grapes
  • An alcohol-free alternative to communion wine
  • Communion wine

Welch’s is the most notable producer of these grapes. This company is internationally recognized for its grape juice and jelly.

But can Concord grapes be used for winemaking? The short answer is yes. However, Concord grape wine is very different than regular wine you are used to. It is rarely produced as wine sold in stores but rather as a hobby for at-home winemakers and hobbyists.

Concord Grape Wine Profile

These wines are most often made off-dry to sweet. Manischewitz is the brand most commonly recognized when it comes to Concord grape wine, mainly on the East Coast. If you have had this wine, you have had Kosher Concord grape wine. These wines truly taste like fermented Welch’s grape juice.

Manischewitz is sometimes found in convenience stores that sell alcohol. This wine is cheap alcohol and not surprisingly, a past-time for many older people due to the price and taste.

Because Concord grapes are “slip-skins”, it is hard to obtain tannins when the grapes are pressed. This results in a low tannin wine.

Food Pairings

BBQ, pulled pork, roasted turkey, aged cheeses

How much does Concord grape wine cost?

The average cost for a bottle is around $7. Yes, it is very cheap. Therefore, if you haven’t tried this wine yet, we recommend it just for the experience. While we usually focus on comparing different wine grape varietals, it will be a cool experience to try a completely different grape species.

How to make Concord grape wine

Do you have an interest in making your own wine? Winemaking can be a cool and rewarding hobby. However, starting out and buying the right equipment can be expensive. If you want to make an experimental batch of wine to see if you are ready to commit to this hobby or to make sure you have the skills down; then start with making a batch of Concord grape wine.

Concord wine is easy and affordable to make. If it doesn’t turn out for any reason, you are not out a few hundred dollars. More complicated recipes exist that include pectic enzymes, potassium sorbate, metabisulfite, acid blends, hydrometer, measuring specific gravity, testing sugar levels (brix), and testing acid levels. If you have experience with homebrew, winemaking, or have the help from vintners; then go forth with whichever recipe you choose.

Below are two beginner recipes from Winemakers Depot (where you can also get home winemaker and brewer supplies) that are tried and true and SIMPLE! One is dry and one is sweet wine. Many people get overwhelmed at the idea of making wine because there are some long and complicated recipes out there.

Winemaking Recipes from Winemakers Depot

Homemade Dry Concord Grape Wine Recipe

1 gallon water
10 lbs fresh Concord grapes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1 package wine yeast

Bring water and sugar to boil in a large pot. Separate grapes from stems and place in primary fermentation container. Crush grapes and pour water into container. Let cool until room temperature. Stir in yeast nutrient and yeast. Cover and let sit for 1 day. Ferment for 3 weeks stirring once a day. Strain through mesh bag into secondary fermentation container. Let rest for 1 month. Rack and let sit for 2 months. Rack into bottles and let rest for at least 9 months before serving.

Homemade Sweet Concord Grape Wine Recipe

1 gallon water
4 cups sugar
6 cups fresh Concord grapes
1 Campden tablet
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 package wine yeast

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Crush grapes in primary fermentation container. Add water, crushed Campden tablet, yeast nutrient, and lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature. Add yeast, stir, and cover. Let rest for 1 week. Strain into secondary fermentation container and airlock. Rack every month for 8 months. Place in bottles. Wine will be ready in 1 year.

After completing the winemaking steps; you will siphon your wine from the carboy or fermenters into the bottle to begin the bottling process. You can get all of your wine bottles, stoppers, and other winemaking supplies at Winemakers Depot.
Here is an article on degassing homemade wine. 
Tip: It is best to start this recipe with fresh Concord grapes and not buy Concord grape juice