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Grapes are one of my favorite fruits, but I typically don't like grape-flavored foods. For example, grape jelly or grape candies (like Jolly Ranchers) have a distinctly different taste. I imagine some of the taste perception has to do with water content. Why is it so different?

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    Many candies use artificial grape flavor, which doesn't really taste like a real grape. – GdD Apr 18 '17 at 15:35
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    @GdD I think that's the point of the question... why doesn't artificial grape flavor actually taste anything like grapes... – Catija Apr 18 '17 at 15:37
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    I've found very few artificial flavors that taste the same as natural flavors. Consider artificial cherry flavor (like you might find in candy or cough medicine)—does that taste anything like a real cherry to you? It doesn't to me. Or artificial banana flavor, which doesn't taste much like a real banana. The big exception is artificial vanilla favor, which they've done a very good job matching, but that's because the flavor profile for vanilla is mostly just the vanillin molecule, which can be relatively easily synthesized, giving you the entire flavor profile. In other words, simple to copy. – Cody Gray Apr 19 '17 at 10:05
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    @Fattie I believe that Manischewits is made with Concord grapes, or at least is engineered to taste like it. – user57261 Apr 19 '17 at 13:16
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    While parts of that are true (it is, indeed, complicated, and artificial flavorings lack a complex organic mix), it is a myth that artificial banana flavoring is based on a now-extinct cultivar of the fruit. While, yes, we now eat Cavendish bananas, and the Gros Michel variety has gone extinct due to a fungal infection (Fusarium oxysporum), there is no actual evidence that artificial banana flavoring is based on this Gros Michel cultivar. It is just isoamyl acetate, which tends to evoke "banana" (and "pear") thoughts in everyone who smells it, and is found in all cultivars of bananas. @lua – Cody Gray Apr 19 '17 at 14:34
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Concord grapes, which most grape jellies/jams/preserves in the US are made from, are derived from the (US-native) "fox grape" (Vitis labrusca) rather than (Europe-native) wine grape (Vitis vinifera). Common table grapes (the ones eaten as fresh fruit) such as Thompson seedless are also derived from Vitis vinifera wine grapes.

Fox grapes have a "foxy" taste character, which is a result of the presence of the naturally occurring compound methyl anthranilate. Methyl anthranilate is a rather simple compound, and is used in many situations as an "artificial grape flavor". In many cases "grape flavored" candies, drinks and medicines are flavored not with grape extracts, but with synthetically produced methyl anthranilate. As such, these artificially flavored foods taste like Concord grapes (fox grapes), rather than table or wine grapes.

While it would be possible to come up with "artificial wine grape" flavor, the flavor profile of wine and table grapes is not dominated by a single compound, as fox grapes are. Therefore, any such "artificial wine grape" flavor would be much more expensive than artificial Concord grape flavor (i.e. just methyl anthranilate). As such, when companies reach for "grape flavor", they tend to go for the more inexpensive Concord grape flavor.

This also adds to the persistent expectation (at least in the US) as to what "grape flavored" means. Even if you came out with a wine-grape-flavored Jolly Rancher, many in the US would think it wouldn't taste right, as they expect grape flavored things to taste like Concord grapes.

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    What an amazing answer! – Fattie Apr 19 '17 at 11:27
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    Glad to see this as an answer. I didn't know the chemical name, but the fake grape flavor is almost spot on for Concord grapes, but no one eats those by the handful. You can get them, but you always use them in "cooking" while the more subtle flavored grapes are eaten by the handful. – coteyr Apr 19 '17 at 13:14
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    I was pretty thrilled to find and eat Concord grapes a few years ago - it was revelatory. – mskfisher Apr 19 '17 at 13:53
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    The fact that "grape flavor" means "Concord grape flavor" to the American palate may also have something to do with the use of pasteurized Concord grape juice as a substitute for communion wine, particularly during the Temperance Movement of the late 19th & early 20th centuries. The Wikipedia article on the Welch's Grape Juice Company has a brief but illuminating discussion of this. – Michael Seifert Apr 19 '17 at 15:02
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    @BoundaryImposition The question is (more or less) US-specific, I'd bet. Where I'm from, outside of american candies, grape flavouring doesn't use the concord grape flavour. While I'm no fan of flavoured beverages, grape-flavoured drinks use wine grapes (or wine grape flavour) here. The flavour goes all the way from "basically wine grapes" to "basically wine". – Luaan Apr 20 '17 at 8:00
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There are lots of types of grapes. Grape flavored items tend to be closer to concord grapes than a wine grape, or the green/red ones available at the grocery store.

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    I wonder if there's a reason for this if concord grapes aren't the dominant variety. Were they the main type of grape available at some point? (I understand that something like this is why artificial banana tastes the way it does - it replicates a now-extinct variety.) Do they simply have a uniquely extractable flavor? – logophobe Apr 18 '17 at 18:41
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    I remember being grossed out the first time I ate concord grapes because they tasted exactly like nasty artificial grape flavoring. – Myles Apr 18 '17 at 19:44
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    I've only ever seen concord grapes as fake plastic grapes attached to fake plastic leaves. I didn't realize they were a real thing until now. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 19 '17 at 5:43
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    @logophobe Concord grapes (and a few other related varieties) have a tough skin that many people prefer not to eat. There's a technique for eating the meat of a Concord grape without the skin, but it's not as convenient as popping a whole grape in your mouth and chewing. Dealing with the Concord grape skin does have the reward of getting the fresh Concord grape flavor, but not as many people are willing to put up with it. – Todd Wilcox Apr 19 '17 at 6:32
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    @logophobe Their flavour is dominated by one chemical that's easy to produce industrially. Concord grapes don't have a lot of variety in flavour -> more distinct. In contrast, wine grapes have hundreds of cultivars, each with variations of flavour depending on growing conditions, storage, processing etc. That's why you have thousands of different wines all over the world, and why different "years" have different flavours, and that's before you add mixing, which is very popular. Even the simplest wine-grape flavours are the result of complex mixture of chemicals that aren't as easy to produce. – Luaan Apr 19 '17 at 12:14
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A jelly or candy, even if using the same aroma compounds that a (raw or cooked) grape or glass of grape juice contains, has a very different balance of sweetness (jelly has a far higher sugar concentration), acidity (balanced by the sugar, or even removed in processing) and texture (jelly coats the tongue, has far less water).

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Another important factor is that nice table grapes are raw. Jellies and juices have been cooked. Heat changes the flavour. Think how different are the tastes of fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Drying also changes the flavour of fruits. Raisins are very different in taste from their fresh beginning.

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