Food & Drink

You could eat wine grapes, but you wouldn't want to

Q: How much do the grapes picked from the vine taste like the wine? Would gewurztraminer, sauvignon blanc or tempranillo grapes have those distinctive flavors of their wines? Are they edible at all?

— Glenn Ramsey

A: Wine grapes are edible but they're really not meant to be eaten out of hand like table grapes. Wine grapes have seeds and thicker skins, and they tend to be sweeter because the sugars will be turned into alcohol during fermentation. The winemaker also has an important role in determining the final flavor of a given wine, from choosing the yeast strain used in fermentation to whether the wine will be aged in oak barrels and for how long. Once bottled, the wine continues to evolve; age-worthy bottles develop an appealing complexity with time.

Ironically, saying a wine tastes “grapey” is something of an insult.

Q: When I was in Australia early this year, a friend and I went to the Hunter Valley where I had a type of wine I had never had before: semillon. I liked one and bought it; I believe it was called Mistletoe Silvereye Semillon 2006. I would like to buy some more, but I have not been able to find a store that sells it. I can buy it directly from the winery, but would prefer to buy it here (in Chicago).

— Lynn Steiner

A: Mistletoe Wines is very clear on its Web site that wines have to purchased directly from the winery. You'll have to contact them to see how much shipping from Australia to the United States will cost you. Notice I wrote United States, not Chicago or Illinois. The winery would have to apply for a shipping permit from the state liquor control commission to send its wine into Illinois.

Seems like a lot of fuss for a wine that sells for $18 a bottle in Australia. There are many semillons and semillon-sauvignon blanc blends out there to choose from. Tell your local wine vendor what kind of wine you're looking for and ask for suggestions.