The most expensive table grapes in the world are Japan’s Ruby Roman Grapes. Wrapped and packaged in a display box, these grapes are each about the size of a ping pong ball, and are cultivated for their sweetness, size and perfect form. The grapes have been known to fetch exorbitant prices, sometimes costing thousands of dollars per bunch.
Growing Ruby Roman Grapes
Relatively new to the market, Ruby Roman Grapes are produced in Ishikawa prefecture, first debuting for auction in 2008. Selective breeding had been going on since 1995, with the intention of growing a large red grape variety.
Prized for their sweet taste and perfect appearance, the first sales of Ruby Roman Grapes were an instant success. The highest bidder paid ¥100,000 (about $910 USD, or $26 per grape)!
The selection criteria is very strict to determine which grapes go on sale. Each grape must weigh over 20g, and have a minimum sugar content of 18%. They are packaged in a presentation box, and affixed with the official sticker. A premium Ruby Roman Grape bunch also exists, which stipulates a whole bunch weighing a minimum of 700g. These are very rare, and some years have yielded no premium bunches.
An even higher bid came in 2019, when Masayuki Hirai, chef at Hotel Nikko Kanazawa, a chain of onsen hotels, paid a whopping ¥1.2 million (about $11,000 USD) his 24 grapes therefore cost ¥50,000 ($460 USD) each! Kanazawa wanted to celebrate the first auction of Emperor Naruhito’s new Reiwa era, and planned to use them in desserts. The media attention from the extravagant purchase was hoped to bring more tourism to Kanazawa.
Why do people spend thousands of dollars on fruit?
Why would somebody pay so much for fruit? Expensive, luxury fruit is a growing trend in Japan, and there are various reasons why people buy them.
Like a fine bottle of champagne, They typically are bought as a gift for somebody important, such as your boss, or for special occasions. They may also be bought for display and ornament, or simply for their perfect taste. One-off giant purchases like this are also sometimes to support the farming community, and as grand public gestures that will make the company look generous.
There are many other incredible pieces of fruit being grown by Japanese producers. Miyazaki Mangoes are grown in special hammocks to lift them into the sun, whilst square watermelons are formed using a labour-intensive technique inside a cube mold. Growing luxury fruit truly is an art form in Japan!