The origin of wine produced from grapes dates back as far as 9,000 years ago in Asia where remnants of fermented rice, honey, grape, and hawthorn berries were discovered on pottery fragments in Central China. A few thousand years later regions throughout Europe began cultivating the winemaking craft while identifying the most favorable grapes that are still enjoyed through our modern day wines to this day. Now the art of winemaking has expanded around the world and can even be made in your own home.
Tips for Growing Wine Grapes:
1. Planting Site:
In general, wine grapes are not fans of overly saturated soils so it is recommended to plant at a site that contains well draining, somewhat acidic soil, ideally on a south facing slope. Wine grapes are adaptable to a wide range of soil types and poor soils can actually provide benefit longterm (further explanation below in grow tip #5). The term terroir is often used in the wine world as reference to the overall environment and soil type where the grape is grown and is a contributing factor to what’s reflected in the overall profile of the wine. This is helpful to keep in mind when choosing the initial planting site and planting the wine grape directly into native soil without many amendments will produce fruits that best portray the terroir of your site. Getting your soil tested by a lab with recommendations for amendments is the best way to figure out what your planting site needs.
2. Full sun is essential:
Sugar is a key component in the fermentation process and the more exposure to sunshine the higher percentage of sugars as well as anthocyanins develop within the grapes. Planting your grapes in full sun will help ensure a higher sugar content and greater fermentation success when it’s time to harvest the grapes.
3. Ideal climate:
Wine grapes are hardy to USDA Zone 6 or 7 depending on the variety and are best suited to Mediterranean climates with dry summers and winters that can provide at least 150 chill hours during the dormancy stage.
4. Provide support:
It is recommended to provide a support system in the form of a trellis or fence at the planting site for the wine grapes to climb and spread successfully. A standard vineyard fencing system consists of 6 – 8 foot fence posts spaced around 8 feet with one wire across at a 3 foot mark and a second wire across set at a 5 foot mark. There are many different pruning and support styles and you should research the ones that work best for your site and needs.
5. The secret to watering…or lack thereof
Watering is essential the first year of planting for wine grapes, however, after the grapes become more established, no watering is needed. The flavors contained within the grapes is a reflection of the minerals present in the deeper layers of the soil. The deeper the roots grow the more those soil layers come through in the grapes. This is why planting wine grapes in poor soils can provide a unique quality to the wine that growing them in the deep soils of the valley bottom would not. Providing deep but infrequent waterings the first year will train the roots to grow deep in the soil to seek out water and nutrients. The more deep rooted your vines are the more drought resistant, complex and resilient they will be. One of our favorite customers and Oregon winemakers, John Paul, has thoughtfully put into words what we think is a wonderful approach to water in the vineyard.
At OGW we offer a diversity of food plants and their companions from around the world. We offer unique and rare fruit and nut trees, shrubs, and vines. We've been sharing our passion for edible plants and organic gardening since 1994. We are a family owned and operated nursery in Portland Oregon. We ship our seeds & plants to all 50 states. At our retail garden center we offer seasonal fruit tasting, preservation and plant care classes as well as hold events in the community. We support local food sovereignty- grow your own One Green World!