Grapevines are one of the world’s oldest plant families with records of vines dating to 10,000 B.C. As man evolved,
taming the vine became one of the more nobler trades, and wine, or fermented-like grape beverages, are cited in many historical documents throughout history. With better tools and knowledge, farmers have slowly created different growing practices leading up to our present day winemaking revolution. The ‘student’ in all of us one day dreams of making our own wine, and the following guide can help you better choose how to grow your crop en route to making the finest wine the world has ever seen.
Guyot Cane Training System – one of the simplest methods of growing grapes and still one of the more commonly used to make wine. A series of horizontal trellis wires are used to help the canes grow vertically. Grapes that bud towards the top of the canes are ultimately pruned in hopes that the bunches on the bottom row will gain in complexity. The foliage that grows at the top of the canes help shade the grape bunches from the sun.
Scott Henry Spur-Training System – This is a play on the Guyot system, with every other vine either grown vertically up or down. One vine will have the canes growing up, while the next vine in the row will have the canes trained downwards towards the ground. This will in essence crowd the vines and encourage more fruit with lower quality, should that be what you’re going for…volume can sometimes be a good thing. The foliage is usually intense and the pattern of the vines is usually hard to identify due to the girth and concentration of the leaves.
Bush Vine – simply what the name implies. At it grows, the vine is unsupported and the canes flop downward when laden with fruit creating the “bushy” illusion. This is actually the preferred method in parts of France where the heat-retaining soil can offer warmth to the grapes during the cooler dusk temperatures. Throughout a growing season, this extra few minutes of heat per day allows the grapes to ripen to maturity.
Some of the more common and more obscure soil types as described by Tom Stevenson in ‘The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia”.
Calcareous Clay – Argillaceous soil with carbonate of lime content that neutralizes the clay’s intrinsic acidity. Its low temperature also delays ripening, so wines produced on this type of soil tend to be more acidic should the grapes fail to fully ripen.
Allvuial Deposits – A combination of sand, silt, and gravel that is usually transported by a river system originating at higher elevations. Due to the mix of nutrients, these soils are very fertile.
Flint – Siliceous stone that reflects the suns heat back onto the grapes and the vine. Sometimes wines grown in this type of rock soil have ‘flinty’ and ‘gunsmoke’ aromas. Bush vines are commonly grown in this type of soil as the distance between the grapes and the soil is minimal, taking full advantage of the heat and light from the stones.
Lignite – Brown carbon-based soil that is an intermediate between coal and peat. Very fertile, is it mined and used as a natural fertilizer in Champagne and parts of Germany.
Tufa – Volcanic compressed fossil-chalk soil loaded with limestone and minerals. Grapes grown in this type of soil tend to produce crisp, rich, and powerful wines, typically white. Mostly found in the Loire Valley of France and in parts of Italy.
Now that you’re hip to taming the vine, pick out a nice piece of land and get to it…