In the words of the great American winemaker Robert Mondavi “Making good wine is a skill; making fine wine is an art.”
It’s common to think any type of grapes will do in the subject of winemaking, but let me be the first to tell you, this is far from the truth! The table grapes that are available to purchase from your local store and wine grapes differ in skin thickness, seed count, flavors, and sizes. It’s essential to know which specific grape types are best for making wines before you begin.
Stick around for my complete guide that will dig into growing grapes for wine properly. Then, learn the best list of wine grape varieties to grow at home, and finally, gain the knowledge of how to make your very own tasty wines from all these freshly grown grapes!
History of Wine Grapes
Did you know the great state of Georgia is known as the birthplace of wine?
Archaeologists can trace the beginnings of wine all the way back to the year 6,000BC. These charter Georgians then invented grape juice, which was later created into this very popular and elegant drink.
Winemaking started as a result of burying grape juice underground during the winter months and digging it up after the seasons had passed.
Digging Into Viticulture
Winemaking is a serious art. Viticulture is the title given to the complete operation of growing grapes for wine. A “vigneron” is the correct term for a gardener or farmer who chooses to grow grapes or cultivate vineyards for winemaking.
Many factors need to be considered while you’re growing grapes for wine. However, I’d say the most important focuses for this practice are climate selection, soil, and topography.
The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes for Wine
It’s no surprise that wine is a popular choice! Quality wines are the product of well-grown grapevines and the correct wine grape varieties. Did you know that every year across the world, nearly thirty one and a half billion bottles of wine are bought and sold? That’s a lot of wine!
So you’ve decided to start a vineyard or plant a few grapevines of your own and get this process started. First, you’ll need a good piece of land to grow enough grapes. Winemaking requires about three to three and a half pounds of grapes to make just one bottle of wine. Need to make a few more? You’ll need ninety pounds of grapes total to make up to twenty-five bottles of wine.
When you’re learning about the proper ways of growing grapes for wine, one of the more crucial things to think about is making sure your grapevines receive proper drainage throughout their lives. Proper drainage means creating a planting space that never lets water collect at the roots. Your vines will perform at their best when they are free from pooling water and are less susceptible to root rot.
How Much Sun Will I Need?
Take sun exposure into consideration when it comes to growing grapes for wine properly. Grapevines thrive best in warmer temperatures and heated soils. Grape plants also require at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day.
Type of Soil Preferences
Unlike plants that enjoy enriched soils, grapevines hold a uniqueness in this regard. These plants thrive best in poor soils that lack nutrients. Did you know you can successfully grow grapes in rocky soils as well? The best fine wines you’ll ever have were most likely planted and grown in infertile and rocky soils!
How Long Does It Take Grapevines to Produce?
Growing grapes for wine requires a great deal of patience. These plants will take two to three years to produce fully mature berries. Fully ripe and mature fruit is vital for making the “top of the line” wines.
Remember that grapevines only need to be planted once, their vines will go dormant in the winter months, and in the spring, they will revive and continue to grow.
Planting Wine Grapevines
Do you have a nicely sloped piece of land or area that is rocky and gives excellent drainage? Wine grapes thrive best in these types of soil. It’s imperative never to let the roots of your grapevine stand in water, or they will become slow producing or could even die.
The layout of a vineyard is essential. Make sure, no matter the size, you space your vines six feet apart from one another and allow the rows to be eight feet in width.
An example of a great vineyard layout would be planting twelve vines in six rows. This idea will create a vineyard that’s seventy two by forty eight feet while allowing a turnaround at the end of the rows.
Setting Up Wine Grape Supports
Since grapes grow on vines, it’s essential to provide proper support while growing grapes for wine. Here’s how you can build the perfect vineyard trellis!
Building a Sturdy Grapevine Trellis
Let’s discuss how to build the perfect sturdy grapevine trellis to do some serious winemaking; plan accordingly with the size of your land.
1. First off, you’ll need to use a handful of eight foot wooden posts. Submerge your wooden posts into the rocky soil at about two feet deep each.
2. Then it’s best to give your posts additional security. Add security by placing them twenty four feet apart from one another.
3. Next, I suggest that you use three wire trellises for your grapevine’s arms to grow alongside.
4. To finish off your new vineyard trellises, add steel metal posts that measure two by eight feet and sandwich them between the wooden posts. This wide range row of posts will now require thirteen gauge wire to be tightly stretched across.
5. Lastly, stretch your thirteen gauge wire tightly across and secure it down with earth anchors such as these.
It may seem like pruning is a step you can skip, but please save yourself the trouble! Every vigneron’s goal is to grow the best grapevines and fully flavored grapes that will make many fine wines to be proud of! Therefore, pruning is so necessary to keep your vines healthy and thriving year after year.
Pruning Properly While Growing Grapes for Wine
It’s essential to correctly prune your grapevines every season. Right before your vines become dormant for winter, make sure to give them a throughout pruning. Pruning is an essential step to help evenly distribute shoots and buds. These healthy shoots in the future will then create mature clusters of grapes. These ripe clusters are great for picking, juicing, and fermenting into wine.
What Happens if You Avoid Pruning?
If your grape vines have too many shoots compared to buds, the sprouts will produce too many leaves, which will then shade your grapes. Shaded grape clusters will struggle to mature and ripen.
It’s crucial to harvest as many fully ripened and overly matured grapes as possible to make the most perfect bottles of wine and grow enough to make full bottles. Likewise, too many buds and few shoots will cause similar issues while you are trying to grow wine grapes properly.
In the end, not pruning and neglecting your vines will not only cause poor quality grape berries but also lead to inadequate amounts of grapes or poor-tasting wines.
Here are a few things to consider before planting. Grapevines take lots of time and patience to grow. Once your vines are freshly planted, it will be another two to three years before you’ll have a good yield.
Please also remember that natural elements and things out of your control can change your yield sizes season to season. Make sure to plant enough vines to produce the right amount of grapes for your project.
Regardless of the outcome each season, growing grapes for wine making is such a fun experience, and there’s something so special about creating your very own bottles!
In the first year of growth, I highly recommend you tie the most vigorous shoots upward against your trellises. Use only loose strings or twines to secure your shoots.
Please remember to never use wires to secure your shoots, wire causes adverse permanent damages.
Trimming Away the Access
In relation to growing grapes for wine, it’s important to keep your grapevines healthy and never overcrowded. Thin out the vines by removing excessive growths that derive from the roots. These extra growths will hog water from the central part of your plant and use up essential fluids the main plant stems need to produce healthy wine grapes.
Next, remember pruning at the end of the year is important. Prune the strongest shoot down and remove any new growths in the winter.
When you start seeing buds form in the spring, choose the most active shoots and secure them horizontally to the lowest wires on your trellis. These “arms” will create fantastic support for your grapevines as well as produce the most significant grape clusters for winemaking.
Harvesting Wine Grapes
The best wine grapes are thick-skinned, tiny, fully ripe, and mature. These characteristics are crucial to watch for when creating fine wines.
In regards to properly growing grapes for wine, let’s learn about veraison. Veraison occurs when your grapes transform from a green color and hardened texture to perfect, juicy clusters.
Red grapes will go from a light green tint to their well-known deep purples. White grapes will start out as a bright green and transition to dulled yellow, greens when they have fully matured and are ready to harvest!
The Importance of Grape Skins
It’s vital to choose grape varieties with thicker skins, smaller sizes, and sweeter flavors. A grape skin’s thickness means there are fewer juices and better overall wine flavors.
How to Make Wine from Grapes
I’ve written an excellent guide titled “How to Make Wine from Grapes” that will walk you through the proper equipment you’ll need to make your own wine. I also share the required ingredients, lead you through the entire process, and teach you how to harvest your yields.
You’ll become skilled at the best ways to clean, press, fermentate, and measure gravity. Lastly, I’ll discuss the racking and bottling processes of fresh homemade wines!
The Best Grapes for Wine Making
Choosing the suitable grape varieties and properly growing grapes for wine all depend on the types of wine grapes you are planning to grow. Climate and location will also play a significant role in these final decisions and flavor notes.
I’ve written a fantastic article called “The 12 Best Grapes for Making Wine,” you need to make sure to check out. It covers the top selections of wine grapes in all your classic wines, their flavor notes, and what regions they’ll grow best in.
Wrapping Up the Complete Guide to Growing Grapes for Wine
Are you now inspired to get started growing your own grapes for wine this season? Using this complete guide to growing grapes for wine, you’ll now be on your way, in a few years, to making delicious bottles of homemade wines! I also invite you to check out other juicy articles about these delightful berries!
In regards to basic needs, plant sites, pruning techniques, and cultivating, you’ll be an expert! This guide is also the perfect help on best harvest tips, how to properly make wine, and the best selections of grapes for fine wines!
Excited for more grape content? Next, check out my grape vine page for more growing tips, care guides, recipes, and more!