There are more than 60 varieties of table grapes which are grouped into three color classifications: green, red and black. The summer table grape season begins in late Spring when the first grapes are harvested in the fertile Coachella Valley, California’s southernmost growing region, and in northern Mexico. By early July, the season in the southern region has ended and harvest moves north to the San Joaquin Valley. The harvest of fresh Grapes from California continues through late Fall.
Sequential harvesting from south to north combined with advanced storage techniques means that varieties of California table grapes are available from May to early January. During the winter months when California grapes are not available, RJO oversees procurement of grapes from the Southern Hemisphere, chiefly Chile, to ensure a year-round supply for our customers.
Unlike many fresh fruits, grapes are harvested fully ripe. After they’re picked, they do not become sweeter, so timing is everything. Determining when grapes are ripe is a real science and both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Department of Food and Agriculture are involved in setting and monitoring grape production standards. Sugar content, color, bunch and berry size and uniformity are all measured by RJO Bird Dogs as harvest begins for our customers.
Once picked, fresh grapes are easily damaged by rough handling, warm temperatures, excessive moisture and decay-causing organisms. Consequently, grape bunches are carefully inspected by RJO to ensure our customers receive the grapes they expect.
Shortly after picking, the field heat is removed from the fruit in cold storage facilities. From this point until they reach our customer’s destination - markets throughout the United States - the grapes will be maintained in a carefully regulated environment to assure they arrive in just-picked condition.