BLUF, bottom line up front… wine’s journey starts in the vineyard – as a grape vine plant to be exact. They are planted, tended and harvested. Where they grow, how they are trained, and how much fruit is grown on each vine influences the end result of the wine.
Wine grapes are not your ordinary red, green and purple varieties at your local grocery store. There are more than 10,000 variations of grapes, thousands of which are wine producing grapes. During this course, we cannot even begin to delve into the vast diversity of these grapes, but what you will learn will give you knowledge to better understand the world of wine.
As with any plant, grape vines need the right combination of weather, soil, sun, temperature and many other elements to succeed. Geographically, most vineyards will be found between the 30th and 50th latitudes as this band provides the best combination of elements for the vines to thrive and produce ripe, luscious grapes. Mother Nature must deliver the right amounts of sun, heat, water, nutrients and carbon dioxide to create the right grape-growing conditions. Too much or too little diminishes the vine’s ability to thrive.
Surprisingly, the harsher the vineyard environment, the better the quality of grapes it produces. Grape vines thrive when their roots must scavenge for water and nutrients, when soils are porous and most plants would shrivel and die if planted in them. Too much rain or water can cause a grapevine’s roots to rot and its grapes to be overly plump and juicy providing watered down flavors unsuited for making wine. Grapevines of some of the world’s highest quality are grown on extremely steep slopes overlooking rivers and rocky fields where stones can be the size of grapefruits. Stress apparently creates character when it comes to grapes!