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Jasmine Vineyards transitions to newer grape varieties

In the last few years, Jasmine Vineyards has made a lot of changes. Chief among those changes has been transitioning away from the old traditional varieties, said Brian Crettol, vice president of sales and marketing for Jasmine Vineyards Inc., a table grape grower and shipper based in Delano, CA. With but one exception, all of the grape varieties Jasmine Vineyards offers are newer varieties, and most are proprietary varieties.

Jasmine no longer has Thompson seedless, Crettol said. Instead, in the green grape category it has Summer Crunch, which has large, elongated berry and a firm, crisp texture. That will be followed by Great Green, which has large, oval berries and a crisp texture, then by Sweet Globe, a large, crunchy grape with good flavor and low acidity. The company also still has some Princess, a green variety introduced in 1999, as well as a lot of Autumn King.03-Jasmine-CA-Grapes-grabbag-web

In the red grape category, Jasmine will start the California season with Flames. Unlike most of the company’s offerings, Flame is an older variety. “It’s been around since the ’70s and ’80s,” said Crettol. “It’s a good grape but expensive to grow; unfortunately, there are no replacements for Flames yet, so that is the only traditional older variety we still have. As soon as we find a replacement for Flames, that’s coming out.”

The next red grape in Jasmine’s lineup after the Flames is Sweet Celebration, “a proprietary variety,” Crettol said. “We’ve got a lot of that. We are the largest Sweet Celebration grower. We love it. It is a great variety. People go nuts over it. Sweet Celebration is very crisp with oval-shaped berries, a brilliant red color, and a wonderful flavor.”

Sweet Celebration will be followed by Scarlet Royal, which has a light Muscat flavor. “Then we are going to finish with Alison,” he said, which has very large berries with a deep pink-red color and a neutral sweet flavor.

”In blacks, we are going to start with Summer Royal, then transition to Autumn Royals for the late season,” he said.

The transition out of older traditional varieties and into newer improved varieties is something Jasmine Vineyards has made a big push toward in the last five years.

“To be honest, they are just better,” said Crettol. “They have lower input costs, lower labor costs, and are higher yielding.”

Given the water issues and labor issues in California, “we have to maximize yields,” he added. “These varieties allow us to do that and, at the same time, deliver a better product to the market. The eating quality is outstanding on all these new varieties.”

As an example, the Summer Crunch, also known as Ivory, is a mid-season grape with “incredible storage potential,” Crettol said. “On the retail shelf, it really holds up with very little shrink. Retailers like this variety specifically for that purpose. And it is not just that variety. All these new varieties we have, they’ve got great shelf life.”

Jasmine does a lot of business in Hawaii with Foodland with the Sweet Celebration, and Foodland’s customers love it. “I get phone calls every year from consumers, whenever Foodland runs out of the variety,” Crettol said. “They ask, ‘When are we getting more of these Sweet Celebrations?’”

This year, Jasmine Vineyards is trying some new packaging. The company offers an assortment of packing styles, but as with most shippers, most of the company’s grapes go into pouch bags. New this year will be some heat-sealed fixed-weight stand-up bags in a 500-gram size (about 17.5-ounces) and a 250-gram size. The grab-and-go bags have a tear-away top and are resealable. The company is also test marketing a snack-sized resealable bag in a 125-gram size — roughly a quarter of a pound. “We are going to send it up to some of our customers just to try and see if it is something the market is looking for,” he said. Jasmine has already been using some of these sealed bags overseas in New Zealand the last few years, and customers and consumers seem to like them,” he added.

Jasmine vineyards expanded its cold storage facility last year, adding six additional cold storage rooms. Currently, “at any one time, we can store 1.2 million boxes of grapes under one roof,” Crettol said.