Black Corinth


Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera) is a seedless ancient Greek grape variety prized for its super sweet pea-sized seedless black fruit. The fresh fruit is often marketed under the name "Champagne grapes" in U.S. specialty stores, but despite the name, they are not used for making Champagne, nor wine. The dried fruit is marketed under the name "Zante currants" or sometimes just "currants". Since they are about the same size as the berries redcurrants and blackcurrants (genus: Ribes), many people confuse the two.

References in period cookbooks to "raisins of Corinth" (Anglo-French Raisins de Corauntz) actually refer to dried Black Corinth grapes. In fact, we get the English word "currant" from the name "Corinth" — for small black grapes that have been dried in the sun. The French word for grape is raisin and the French word for dried grape is raisin sec.

In wild grapes, the species is dioecious; the sexes grow on separate vines with male flowers on one plant, and female flowers on another. Black Corinth is an "almost male" variety in that the flowers have well developed anthers (male), but only tiny underdeveloped ovaries (female).

To yield sufficient fruit, Black Corinth grapes need to be carefully managed. In ancient times, girdling was a standard practice to increase the set and size of seedless grapes, until the discovery of the plant hormone gibberellic acid, and its ability to do the same thing with less labor. Historically, Black Corinth stock was probably kept for its pollen-producing abilities, so other female flowered varieties (with naturally higher yields) would set full crops.

The Black Corinth variety is also reputed to be very prone to powdery mildew and susceptible to numerous other diseases, such as downy mildew and black rot.