Viticulture : The First Step in all things Wine.

February 10, 2010 at 5:07 PM Leave a comment

Viticulture or growing and maintaining a vineyard is quite a complex and laborious task.  When you think about all the different processes that are involved in the ultimate end of a bottle of Wine, you must start at the roots.  And speaking of roots, deep roots are known to create some of the best wines in the world.  But how does a grapevine grow deep roots?

Several factors are important when planting a vineyard.  In terms of Viticulture, there are 3 main factors to consider:

Climate – the general, fixed weather/temperature pattern of an area is strictly determined by its distance from the poles and equator (latitude)

Some areas are just not capable of growing vines at all, and  specific varieties of grapes need specific climates to grow, for example, Pinot Noir needs a cooler and more consistent climate than Cabernet Sauvignon to produce great fruit.  Maritime Climates are moderate, near bodies of water and have warm summers and mild winters.  Continental Climates have hotter summers and cooler winters.  Mediterranean Climates are said to be of some of the most ideal climates for growing grapevines since they have hot dry summers, and most of the rainfall occurs in the winter time.

Soil – is made up of organic material (decomposed plants and animals), minerals, air, and water.

Vines need certain types of soil, many believe that limestone rich soils are among the best for growing grapes.  Chalk is a specialized form of limestone that is found in many vineyard sites.  Sites with slate and other types of stones may be helpful in retaining heat in cooler areas and also provide good drainage.Good drainage is necessary for deep roots to grow.  If vines have enough water available close to the surface, they have no need to grow deep roots in search of nutrients and food, thus they become lazy and remain shallow.

Grape Varieties- It is important to know what varieties you are going to grow and where you are growing them.  Many experiments have been made over the centuries to discover what varieties grow best and where, so it is safe to assume that by now, most varieties are grown in their ideal regions and specific areas.   The most common way to get the varieties you desire is to get clones of the particular vine you desire.  Planting grape seeds just won’t work.

The viticulturists who know what they are doing need to focus their attention on producing the best fruit of each variety and thus have many obstacles including Weather, Pests, and Disease to overcome while also determining the appropriate yields, when to harvest for optimal ripeness, how to harvest by hand or mechanically, and how to train and prune the vines for optimal growth.

As you can see there is a ton of thought, experience, and labor that is involved in just the process of growing the grapes and maintaining the vines.  If you are thinking about starting your own vineyard and planting your own grapevines, there are a few things you need to know before you just jump in and plant a vine.  One of which is that it takes about 4 years for a newly planted vine to begin to produce fruit, so be patient!

So what’s next?  Well once the grapes are grown and picked at their optimal ripeness… Vinification Begins…

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