What are Concord Grapes? (History, Eating, 5 Facts and More)

The Concord grape might be one of American’s most familiar grape varieties, people usually plant them in the backyard, make grape jam, jelly, and Concord pies.

What Are Concord Grapes?

History of Concord Grapes

Ephraim Wales Bull
Ephraim Wales Bull / Coastal Wine Trail

Concord grapes are one of the oldest domestically cultivated grapes in the United States. In 1849, the horticulturist Ephraim Wales Bull invented this grape variety in the same name town of Massachusetts.

Advertisement for Concord Grapes
Advertisement for Concord Grapes / Coastal Wine Trail

Before the birth of Concord, he already planted and appraised 22,000 seedlings. His goal is to cultivate a grape variety that has strong cold resistance and adapt to the environment of American. After many times failure, he finally developed this ideal variety——Concord grape. Three years later, the Concord grape won the first prize at Boston Horticultural Society Exhibition.

Unfortunately, although Ephraim spent a lot of time creating this grape, he had no chance to see it widely plant throughout the United States or receive any financial benefit from it. When Bull passed away on September 26, 1895, he was almost penniless. His epitaph reads “He sowed. Others reaped.”

Dr. Thomas Welch
Dr. Thomas Welch / Coastal Wine Trail

The iconic Welch’s grape juice was born in 1869. Dr. Thomas Welch, a dentist and prohibitionist found a method to produce stable quality grape juice. He picked 40 pounds of Concord grapes from his front yard, cooked and pressed the juice through cloth bags, sealed the full bottles, then boiled them in hot water. He applied the famous Louis Pasteur’s high-temperature disinfection to avoid the bacteria to breed in the bottle. As a result, concord grapes began to be known by more people.

Welch Concord grape juice
Welch Concord Grape Juice /Coastal Wine Trail

The Concord grape juice was so popular and Dr. Thomas started to produce them on large scale, he was processing 300 tons of grapes by 1897. In 1923, his son, Charles Welch introduced Welch’s Concord grape jelly “Grapelade” and released them commercially, which is one of the first modern jams and a World War I ration staple.


As time goes by, Concord grapes became the most widely planted grape in North America. Washington State cultivates the largest amount, followed by New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri. More than 336,000 tons of Concord grapes were produced in the U.S every year.

Concord grapes are still predominately grown in the United States, but the juice and concentrate are also sold in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Health Benefits

Concord grapes are not only delicious but also have many health benefits. It contains lots of antioxidants which can protect our body and brain from inflammation and aging, clarified the skin. Do you want to be healthy and glorious? Eat some Concord grapes!

Resveratrol in Concord grapes
Resveratrol in Concord Grapes / Coastal Wine Trail

Concord grapes are also excellent for high-pressure patients. The resveratrol in grape skin and seed improves the fluidity of the blood and relaxes the arterial walls, which can help decrease blood pressure effectively.

Besides, Concord grapes can improve the protection of the cells in our body, creating the ‘barrier’ to resist disease and foreign invaders, so we also suggest old people and children eating more Concord grapes.

Eating Methods

Concord grapes are famous in the U.S. as raw materials for jelly and juice. One of the popular eating methods is to spread the Concord grape jelly on a sandwich with delicious peanut butter. During World War II, the soldiers created this method to make their rations taste more delicious and it lasts to today.

Concord grape salad
Concord Grape Salad / Coastal Wine Trail

When you bake desserts or cook savory dishes, try to put Concord grape on your ingredient list! Just like we use melon to pair with ham, the sweetness in grapes can achieve great balance with the salty meat. In hot summer, you can also cut the frozen grapes into pieces and blend them with goat cheese and almonds to make fresh salad. Concord wine can be also a great partner with BBQ, pulled pork, roasted turkey, aged cheeses.

Concord Grape Juice
Concord Grape Juice / Coastal Wine Trail

If you plan to host a family party, you can also try to add Concord grape juice or frozen grapes to a glass of sparkling water, that will be the best summer drink!

Product Brands

As the inventor of concord grape juice, Welch’s is the most notable brand of Concord grape product, their grape juice and jelly are internationally recognized.

Manischewitz Concord grape wine
Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine / Coastal Wine Trail

Manischewitz is another well-known brand when it comes to Concord grapes, mainly on the East Coast. Manischewitz Medium Dry Concord or Cream White Concord is the best known kosher Concord wine, Kedem and Mogen David wines are also popular.

Planting Guide

Planting Guide 1
Coastal Wine Trail

Concord grapes are easy-to-grow fruits and have various usages, the grapes ripened early, produced sweet fruit and survived the hardest winters, you can use them to make jelly, jam, homemade wine, or cook delicious cuisine. Its large heart-shaped leaves and twisting branches can also be the best decoration in your garden.

First, find an optimal place for Concord grape vines. Site in full to part sun in average to rich soil with good drainage is an ideal choice. Secondly, plant the vines in early spring, leave 8 feet gap between the vines. Once planted, irrigate the vines often to help the roots to establish, pay attention to the weeds and grass around the plant and clear them.

During the first several years, prune and remove flowers are necessary, which can help the vines become stronger and better harvest in subsequent years. If the vines are looking strong, using the vinyl tape to tie the strongest shoot to your trellis and repeat this action every 30 cm of growth, this strongest vine will become the trunk of your grape vine.

Planting Guide 2
Coastal Wine Trail

In the very early spring of each year, prune established vines regularly, cutting up to 90 percent of the previous year’s growth and only keep two or three buds. Don’t worry, such ‘sacrifice’ will help the vines produce sweeter and better quality grapes.

Fully Irrigate Concord grapes once a week during hot, dry summer. Please note that Concord grape vines like moist soil, but not soggy soil so don’t water them too much. As a self-pollinating variety, it can be grown alone. After establishing the preliminary foundation and regular maintenance, you can harvest Concord grapes each autumn!

5 Facts About Concord Grape

There are five interesting facts about the Concord grape:

1. Concord Grape is a “Slip-Skin” Grape Variety

Concord Grapes Variety
Coastal Wine Trail

Concord grape is a kind of “Slip-skin” grape, which means that the grape skin easily peels off from the grape meat, so it’s an ideal choice to make grape jelly or juice, but not suitable to produce wine, it’s harder to extract tannins and flavors from the grape skin. People often use the white winemaking method to produce the Concord wine.

2. It Smells Like an Old Fur Coat

The ripe Concord grapes are medium to large and covered in white bloom. The thick, tannin-rich skin offers a pleasant chewiness and varies in color from deep blue to purple or almost black. This grape is best known as a very sweet table wine and a fortified dessert wine, which are highly aromatic, tangy, and sweet with a unique musky flavor. It has also been described as a fox grape or skunk grape, because of the unique ‘foxy’ note, which smells like an old fur coat.

3. In Fact, the Concord Grape not Belongs to the Wine Grape Family

Table grape vs Wine grape
Coastal Wine Trail

Nowadays, people can still find the original Concord parent vine near Bull’s farmhouse. They belong to Vitis Labrusca, which tastes delicious but winemakers won’t take them as the first choice to make wine. Most wines are made from Vitis vinifera species, which have thicker skin and are much sweeter than Vitis Labrusca, those characteristics guarantee the more concentrated tannins and higher alcohol content in wine.

*What’s the difference between wine grape and table grape?

Species Vitis Vinifera (Native to the Mediterranean) Vitis Lanbrusco, Vitis Rotundifolia
Skin Thickness Thicker skin is better (perfect for extracting tannins and delivering deep red color) Thin Skin (Taste more delicious)
Sweetness 22-30% sugar content(Sweeter than table grapes) 10-15% sugar content
Size Smaller than table grapes (more concentrated flavors) Larger than wine grapes (taste juicier)
Yield Low yields but high quality (10 pounds grapes per vine) High yields

4. The Chaptalization is Necessary During the Concord Winemaking Process

Mogen David Concord grape wines
Coastal Wine Trail

Even as a sweet table grape with a distinctive flavor, the sugar level in Concord grapes is still lower than traditional wine grapes (such as Merlot). So the chaptalization (sugar addition) is always necessary during the winemaking process to produce an 11-12% alcohol wine.

5. They are Often Be Used to Make Sacrament Wine or Kosher Wine

Concord grapes are also used to make sacrament wine, there are more than 150 years of history since Concord juice has been served in U.S. churches. The well-known kosher Concord wines are Manischewitz Medium Dry Concord or Cream White Concord, and wines by Kedem and Mogen David.

What is Kosher wine?

Kosher wine means the wine ingredients, including yeasts and fining agents must be kosher, and the Sabbath-observant Jews have to supervise the whole winemaking process. Most of the time, you can’t taste the difference between normal wines and kosher wines. Besides, kosher wine can be produced at vineyards anywhere in the world and all grape varieties are allowed.

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