Cotton Candy

Does this grape variety need an introduction at all… Wow!! Would probably do.

Cotton Candy has taken the fruit industry by storm! There are endless posts, articles, shows, videos and more on this variety…and with good reason. At the moment Cotton Candy grapes are in season in the Northern Hemisphere, so we would like to pay this grape some respect in its presence.

Cotton Candy ready for harvest
Cotton Candy grapes on the vine in Murcia, Spain.

We tasted Cotton Candy for the first time three years ago. Wil, who was working for Grupo Alta (the leading grape producing company in Mexico), attended a Global summit that was arranged for licensed growers of IFG (International Fruit Genetics) varieties in Bakersfield, California.

The summit coincided with Grapery’s 2012 trial harvest of Cotton Candy. The excitement was palpable in California….and in our house. Grapery is the first company in the world to commercially produce this fine grape variety.

We were living in Hermosillo, Mexico at the time, so upon Wil’s return the girls were very excited to have their favourite person in the world back home.  Wil knowing full well, that bringing something back to eat or play with, from every trip was compulsory, brought them Cotton Candy grapes and English Toffees.

They took a toffee each…ate it and went on with their business.  After a quick catch up with Wil and a discussion about this grape variety the girls came running and waggling passed us. By then I was so excited about this new grape I encouraged the girls to try a berry.  They each grabbed one and ran and waggled off…

Bare in mind that both the English Toffees and Cotton Candy grapes were right next to each other on the table.

The girls were outside for a few minutes when they came back inside and grabbed a handful of berries, stood there, ate it and grabbed another handful. The English Toffees completely forgotten.  English Toffees 0,  Cotton Candy 1.

First thing the following morning, the girls wanted to know if they could please have some more Cotton Candy grapes. 

Our girls enjoying Cotton Candy
Our girls enjoying Cotton Candy for breakfast.

So why do we love this grape variety so much? For exactly the reason illustrated above. If children prefer Cotton Candy grapes to candies and other sugary no-goods, I will be a very happy individual.  I understand full well that they can’t eat it as a meal, but as a dessert or a sweet treat? For sure!!

Who is the Mastermind behind Cotton Candy?

Dr. David Cain, who is a fruit breeder from Bakersfield, California is the father of this marvel of a grape variety. I had the privilege of meeting David, in 2014, when he visited Hermosillo to check on his Cotton Candies.

He is a lovely person and we hope to interview him in the near future and hear more about Cotton Candy from the creator himself. He has not only bred Cotton Candy but many other sensational varieties that we cannot wait to tell you about.

Last year, for example, 18000 baby plants were planted, each one with the potential of being a successful variety.  A successful variety is a whole other story, one that we will cover in a later post.

Cotton Candy grapes being weighed and packed in California, USA
Cotton Candy grapes being weighed and packed in California, USA

So how does it taste, look and feel?

What we found is that the taste is very similar to caramel when eaten at room temperature. However, when eaten from the fridge the cotton candy flavour is unmistakable.  It’s sweeter than traditional table grape varieties.  Cotton Candy grapes must have a Brix of 18-20 for the flavour to fully develop. This unique flavour is quite volatile, which is very important when harvesting. If the grapes are left in 30 degrees Celsius the flavour will become less distinct.

It is a firm, white seedless grape with a slight crunch. The skin is light green to yellow, thin and soft which makes for easy eating for all age groups.

How did they achieve the flavour?

Cotton Candy is the result of years and years of natural cross-breeding. The complexity of the flavour was achieved by crossing two different species of grapes, Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca.

Vitis vinifera is native to the Old World whereas Vitis Labrusca is native to eastern North America.

Packed Cotton Candy. Ready for stores
Packed Cotton Candy. Ready for stores

The musky or foxy aroma of the Vitis Labrusca is what contributed to the final cotton candy flavour, where the Vitis Vinifera contributed to the well-rounded attributes required from a commercial grape variety.

Patience paid off…

To give you an idea, the Cotton Candy grapes that are now available in stores were bred in 2002-2003. That is more than a decade ago…

This sweet treat surely has a history!

Which countries are commercially producing Cotton Candy?

In the Northern Hemisphere (In season June to September): Mexico, United States, Spain and Italy.

And in the Southern Hemisphere (In season January to March): South Africa, Namibia, Peru, Chile, Brazil and Australia.

Look out for Cotton Candy and have some fair fun!!

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13 thoughts on “Cotton Candy

  1. Well I have not had cotton candy in xx years (yes decades) and I will be honest without the “hint” in the name I would not have made the connection easily. Bit I did and it does taste like cotton candy. Moreover it is a delicious grape, so much so I finished a healthy portion in one go for an afternoon snack. Thanks for the heads up guys. Will definitely have more of it soon.

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  2. A very tasty grape indeed. I could not find it at our local Marks and Spencer but found it at Marks and Spencer Oxford Street, London. My eldest son prefers “normal grapes”…….my youngest son and I finished a punnet within minutes. Say no more. What a great blog! Thank you for the interesting information.

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  3. Great article!!! I had the opportunity to test Cotton Candy 2 years ago in Berlin for Fruit Logistica!!! And fruit were so unique, so good!!! I’ve never managed to find some fruit in France, it is really a pity and I hope it will change soon!!!! If not I will have to wait for next Fruit logistica 😉

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