Grapevine cuttings or shoots are usually planted in the spring and take three years to produce grapes that can be used for wine. Climate and soil conditions play an important role in vine growth and grape production.
The young vines must be pampered to grow into mature producers of quality grapes. They need sunlight, irrigated but well drained soil and pruning. The small shoot planted in the spring will grow into a vine with stalks and delicate side canes that should be trained along a trellis.
Wine producing vines are nurtured with smaller trellises and fences that give them room to spread during their second season. The trellis or fence can be metal, wood, rope or any type of line. The vines will wrap themselves around the thin links or slats of the trellis. You can train table grape vines to cover a decorative gazebo or arched structure over three years.
The vine has to be pruned to permit new growth. The stem or trunk grows the first year while new growth appears in the second year. Only four canes or stalks should be allowed to grow from each cutting the first year. Their vines should be trained along the trellis the second year. If you are growing grape vines, you will have to prune about 70% of the vine the first two years.
The vines should begin to sprout leaves and buds that grow into grapes by the third year. Any grapes that appear during the second season are not considered wine quality.
Climate and soil
Different varieties of grapes grow in different climates and soil conditions. All grapes require sunlight during the growing season and soil that is well drained. Rain helps to irrigate the plants but there must be sufficient runoff.
Weather is important in growing vines and determining the quality of wine grapes. Most grapes need cool, moist temperatures. Some grape varieties such as the Pinot Meunier used in champagne like colder weather and bud a little later in the spring. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes traditionally used in champagne blends or cuvees need a slightly warmer environment and chalky limestone soil.
Most grapes are harvested in the fall from late August to early October in the Northern Hemisphere. The sugar level is tested and the grapes picked and processed when they are in their prime, before the first frost. Some species of grapes in Canada are harvested after the first frost to produce the famous Ice Wine.
Grapes in the Southern Hemisphere are harvested during March. Grapes are grown as far south as Chile and Argentina in the Western Hemisphere. South Africa and Australia are also know for outstanding wine production.
Vines that are well tended and pampered can last for 40 years as long as they are not infested with diseases and rot. Healthy mature vines can produce cuttings and shoots for new planting. Grapes were probably the first fruit cultivated by ancient people and wine is one of the world’s oldest beverages.