The Three Parts of a Grape Berry

We started harvest about ten days ago so I wanted to talk about grapes today. Wine grapes have three parts: the skins, the pulp, and the seeds. The seeds have been bred out of table grapes, one example being Thompson seedless grapes.

Let’s start from the inside with the seeds. Seeds are not very tasty since they have very high amounts of tannins and do little when it comes to winemaking. If you have ever bought a bag of concord grapes and then bit down on the seeds you know how bitter the seeds can be. That being said, the last thing a winemaker wants to do is crush the seeds when the juice is pressed otherwise this bitterness will find its way into the juice. Grapes can have anywhere from one seed per berry up to four seeds per berry.

The most important part of the grape for white wine is the pulp. This contains the sugar, acids (both tartaric and malic), aromatics, and a small amount of potassium. A white wine gets all of its acid and flavor profile from the juice that is extracted from the pulp.   

The last and most important part of the berry for a red wine is the skins. The skins contain all the color (called anthocyanins) in a red berry and thus need to be left in contact with the juice for the wine to have a red color. If the grapes are pressed shortly after they are crushed then the wine will be similar to a white wine or be rose in color. This part of the grape also contains the less bitter tannins that a winemaker wants in a red wine; it helps to give the final product a better mouthfeel.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery
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One way to categorize all the different wine grapes.

Most wine is produced from grapes however there is a huge number of wine grape varietals. One way to break down all the different grape varietals is to consider where in the world it originated from. Generally, most will agree, that there are three sub-categories of wine grapes. These are: Vinifera, French- American hybrids, and Native American grapes.

Vinifera (or Vitis vinifera) are the grapes from Europe. They are the varieties that one will generally find in French wines, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are just a few. These evolved in Europe and are not resistant to a number of grape vine diseases and pests that are present in North America. One extreme example is the Phylloxera aphid that decimated numerous French vineyards in the mid- 19th century.

French-American Hybrids are crosses of two different grape species or two Vitis. Normally, these will consist of a Vinifera and some other grape species. These are generally more resistant to a number of diseases and many have become commercially available thanks to grape breeding programs. Two research facilities, one at Cornell University and one at the University of Minnesota have created many that can withstand the cold winters in the Northern USA. Several of these varieties include Cayuga White, Corot Noir, and Marquette.

The last group of grapes is the Native American grapes. These evolved in North America and usually are resistant or at least very tolerant to diseases and pests like Phylloxera. These can generally be found in the North East USA. Native American grapes generally get turned into grape juice and because of this their aromas are what most people consider to be the “grapey” aroma. There are numerous grapes that evolved in Native American, these include: Concord, Catawba, Niagara, and Delaware, just to name a few.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

How Do I Know When It’s Ripe?

With harvest just over a month away, grape picking equipment is being fine tuned and tanks are being emptied to make room for the coming harvest. But how does a viticulturist determine when his or her grapes are ripe enough to pick?

There are several key factors that influence harvest decisions. The first is the brix (or sugar level) in the berries. Brix are, by definition, the grams of solid in 100 grams of liquid. Most of the solids are fermentable sugars but there is a small amount of non-fermentable solids, such as acid and aroma compounds. The brix number goes up as the summer goes on and each brix will ferment to roughly 0.6% alcohol (v/v).

The second key factor is the titratable acidity (TA) in the grape must. TA is the measure of tartaric acid in the grape. This is the measurement of how acidic the wine will taste. Any number too high and the wine will taste sour. If the TA is too low the wine will feel flat and watery on your pallet.

For premium wines, a grower might also consider the amount of anthocyanin (color compound) in the wine. Additionally, some aroma compounds deteriorate with ripeness, such as green bell pepper or fresh cut grass aromas. Growers need to wait till these smells break down, otherwise you and I will be able to smell it in the final product and most consumers don’t really want to drink grass.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery



Rkatsiteli- The wine you can’t pronounce…

Rkatsiteli is considered one of the oldest domesticated grapes in the world. It has spread across the globe from its beginnings in Georgia, of the former Soviet Union. The grape itself has a reddish hue but many use to produce a white wine. The berries are small in size and can still have a fair amount of acidity at ripeness. This grape often ripens rather late in the season and has a good winter hardiness for a V. vinifera variety. While rather uncommon in the United States, Rkatsiteli was once the third most produced grape in the world. It is produced in Asia mostly with the grape not only being used for wine but also sparkling wines and distillation. The wine is often slightly floral, with hints of pear, apple, and quince.

Oh and it’s pronounced r-kat-si-teli in case you were wondering. Feel free to stop by and get some practice as you try the wine.

As always I hope you enjoyed this blog post.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery


Robinson, Jancis, Julia Harding., and Jose Vouillamoz. Wine Grapes : a Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Ecco, 2012.

Hot Summer Grapes

The hot summer is good, to an extent.

While you and I here in South Jersey have been sweating it out for the last few

weeks, the grapes have been thriving. Grapes flourish in the warm weather and can put a

lot of energy into ripening berries and producing new vegetative growth (something that

is not ideal if you want to make wine but there are ways to manage very leafy plants).

Plants will continue to thrive in this weather and harvest will be a little early if this

warmth sticks around for a few more weeks. And one of the biggest bonuses of the

warmth is bacterial disease like Downey Mildew and Black Rot are hindered by above

+90 O F temperatures. Any hotter though and the vines will start to feel the extreme heat


Around 100 O F to 105 O F plants begin to slow down as photosynthesis begins to

cost the plant water. If a plant continues to loose too much water it begins to wilt. To

prevent this, the plant will close its stomata (similar to pores in the skin). With the

stomata closed the plant can not take up CO 2 and photosynthesis grinds to a halt. When

the temperature drops low enough the stomata open and photosynthesis resumes.

Now for those of you thinking, “What happens to plants in hotter climates where

triple digits are common?” There are 3 types of photosynthesis, known as C3, C4, or

CAM. C3, which is the type grapes (V. vinifera) have, is the simplest from an

evolutionary standpoint and suited for cooler climates. C4 and CAM differ but both are

better suited for warmer climates. Sugarcane and cactus are examples of C4 and CAM


-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

The Outer Coastal Plain

If you have bought wine in South Jersey in the last decade you probably have noticed at least a few bottles with the abbreviation O.C.P. This is an abbreviation for the Outer Coastal Plain.

The OCP is one of roughly 225 AVA’s in the US and the largest of 3 AVA’s in NJ. AVA’s stand for American Viticulture Areas. These areas are set up by the federal government to help wine consumers understand that the wine from these areas all show similar characteristics. The idea helps to show regionalism in wine, the AVA’s are set by geographical boundaries, not legal boundaries. If AVA’s are used on a wine label, then the wine must contain at least 85% grapes grown in the boundary of the named AVA. The first AVA in the United States was set up in 1980. Since then new AVA’s are created every year. The new AVA’s must show that they are distinctive in growing conditions based on climate, soil, elevation and/or distinct physical features of the land.

The distinctive features of the OCP are the well-drained sandy loam soil and the maritime climate. The OCP covers 2.25 million acres of land and includes at least part of 9 counties in southern NJ. Roughly 30 wineries call the OCP home with more opening every year.


Holiday Wine Trail Weekend



Happy Week (6 days) before Thanksgiving everyone! We here at Tomasello Winery love Thanksgiving for 2 reasons: First we have our November sale which you can use to stock up on wines for your Thanksgiving dinner. Our Winter Chill White, Ranier Red, Cranberry Moscato, Cranberry Wine, and 2013 Outer Coastal Plain Sangiovese are all on sale for 25% off until November 30th. Second the weekend after Thanksgiving is Holiday Wine Trail Weekend! Instead of spending black Friday running through the streets and standing in lines at crowded malls, spend the weekend with us. It’s a great way to unwind before the Holiday season gets into full swing and old Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose.


There are so many great reasons to visit us during the Holiday Wine Trail. For starters we can help you cross a few people off your Christmas list with our great gift baskets. Each basket features two wines and other treats and goodies to go with them. Another reason to visit us is that we have grapevine wreaths and cork ornaments for those who stop by. The ornaments are handmade and perfect to adorn your tree but you better come in early because we only have a limited supply so get them while supplies last. All 3 days from 12-5 we will have a chocolate fountain in our Palmaris room. We repeat, a chocolate fountain. It’s so nice that we just had to say it twice. What goes better with wine than chocolate? On Saturday and Sunday we will have live music from 1-4. Lastly on both Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 we are having tapas and burgers made to order at our tapas and burger bar! We know that you’re going to have a full day so not only can you come in for a wine tasting but you can have some lunch before you head out for more shopping. We can’t wait to see you then!


Grand Harvest Festival

As the festival season starts to wind down we here at Tomasello Winery are thankful for all of you who have come out to support us. This weekend we are headed to the Garden State Wine Grower Association’s Grand Harvest Festival. As some of you may know this event was originally scheduled for October 3 and 4. However the weather changed our plans but it didn’t dampen our spirits. We are now going to celebrate in grand fashion!

The wineries that will be there include us at Tomasello Winery, 4JG’s Vineyards, Auburn Road Vineyards, Cava Winery, Chestnut Run Farm, DiMatteo Vineyard, Four Sisters Winery, Heritage Vineyards, Hopewell Valley Vineyards, Monroevillle Winery, Old York Cellars, Plagido’s Winery, Salem Oak Vineyards, Sharrott Winery, Valenzano Winery, Ventimiglia Vineyards, Villa Milagro Vineyards, Villari Vineyards and Wagonhouse Winery. It’s going to be a very big festival. make sure to stop by and try our Broomstick Brew, Spiced Apple Wine, or Cranberry Moscato.

There will also be entertainment and bands both days of the festival. On Saturday October 24 Sassfaction, a six piece dance band. On Sunday The Heartbeats will be playing their dance music. There will also be presentations over the course of the two days. Presentations include themes like wine pairing, cocktail making, and wine education.

Along with the entertainment will be great food from Carolina Blue BBQ, Cherries on Top, Empanada Guy, Momma’s Meatballs, and Pure & Simple Flatbreads. Perfect for grabbing a bite with that bottle of  Tomasello wine you bought!

Join us Morristown NJ at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm Saturday October 24 and Sunday October 25 from noon to 5pm. You can find tickets HERE. We can’t wait to celebrate the harvest with you.

Welcome to The Vine

Stop in and see us!

Welcome friends and wine lovers to the first of many blog posts from Tomasello Winery’s The Vine. At Tomasello we love many things: wine, food, a good party and our fabulous customers. We want to be a part of your lives. Yes you can stop at one of our seven tasting room locations and our main winery and taste our delicious and award winning wines. But we want to use this blog to show you how Tomasello can be a part of your every day. This blog is like talking to your best friend and asking them what they think about wine. This will be a lot of fun for you and us.

Now you’re probably wondering what fun things we have planned. Well we don’t want to go into too many details (it’ll spoil the surprises). However there are a few things we can share. How many of you like to cook or would like to learn how to cook? We want to show you how to incorporate our wine into your cooking with fun and easy recipes. Who here loves a good party? We want to show you how to throw fun holiday parties and fun “just because” parties too!

One of the best things about our main winery in Hammonton is our brand new grand ballroom. The Crystal ballroom is great for our beautiful in house events, your events and weddings. We want to tell you about our great events, for example we have a fabulous Palmaris wine and steak dinner coming up (more on that soon). Make sure you get the inside scoop on what events we are dreaming up in the future. We also want to highlight past events so even if you can’t make it to our ballroom in Hammonton you can still be here in spirit.

Our biggest hope is that you will get involved with this blog. If you email us ( and tell us about any events you plan with us or your fabulous weddings we will try to highlight them here. We love weddings here at Tomasello and with this blog we can talk about how we can help make your day extra special.

So please join us every week to see what Tomasello Winery says next. We are very excited to talk to you and become a part of your family. You are our customers and friends and we love you. Cheers!