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Jasmine Vineyards still looking for dominant red variety grapes

Brian Crettol, vice president of sales and marketing for Jasmine Vineyards Inc., has no doubt a newly-minted red grape variety will emerge and replace Flame Seedless as the dominant red seedless offering in the California grape deal. But it hasn’t happened yet.

“We’re looking and waiting,” he said. “We have open ground but are waiting for a good red seedless variety to take the early time slot.”

03-Jasmine-CA-Grapes-grabbag Crettol said that in the last five to 10 years, the development of proprietary varieties has dominated the California grape scene as growers have moved away from the traditional varieties. There are many new, high-yielding, sweeter varieties that have come on to the market and are driving sales. In fact, the Thompson Seedless variety — long the standard for seedless green grapes — has all but disappeared. In its place are several newer varieties, including Summer Crunch, Great Green and Autumn King.

On the red side of the seedless grape aisle there are also many new entrants, including Scarlet Royal, Sweet Celebration and Alison — each of which is grown and marketed by Jasmine. But nothing has emerged yet to replace Flame Seedless, which is typically the first red grape out of the shoot every year.

Crettol said production economics dictate that a new, early-season, red seedless variety has to be found. He noted that yields on Flame Seedless are in the 600-700 cartons per acre realm, while the newer varieties can produce 2,000 cartons or more per acre. The math is obvious. It takes just as much effort and resources to grow a newer, high-yielding variety as it takes to grow an older, low-yielding grape.

Jasmine is currently evaluating several varieties from at least two different private breeding operations with some promising results for an early season red. But before it commits to adding significant acreage to a new variety, the company wants to make sure it checks all the right boxes and will be a consistent producer moving forward. The firm is taking the same approach to its entry into the organic sector. “We do have some open ground that we are certifying for organic production and we are moving in that direction,” he said, adding that retailers continue to report growth in the organic category.

Speaking to The Produce News in early July, Crettol said that growers in the Delano, CA district, which is where Jasmine operates, were still a couple of weeks away from good production. He estimated that the third week of July would bring some Flame Seedless as well as the early black variety, Summer Royal. From that point, he said it would be a continuous march to the starting line for a plethora of Jasmine’s grapes, including Summer Crunch, Sweet Globe, Great Green and Scarlet Royal in August. As the summer matures and turns into fall, other varieties will join the firm’s lineup including Sweet Celebration, Autumn Royal, Autumn King and Alison.