What Is Viticulture?

Viticulture deals with the science, study, and production of grapes.

Viticulture is the process of grape production. Grapes are grown around the globe apart from the Antarctica, and they have high adaptability properties to different environments. Grapes are fruits which are used to produce wine. The people who study the science behind grape production are called viticulturists. Viticulturists study pests and diseases to control, irrigation, fertilization, fruit development, and characteristics of grapes. They are also responsible in managing the canopy on which the grapes grow, when to prune, and when to harvest the fruit. Winemakers also liaise with viticulturists in wine production because the best vines give the best wine. Different varieties of grapes are now approved by the European Union as the real grapes for wine production, because of their characteristics. Some of the wines produced using grapes include the red wine, which is produced from gulp of black and red grapes. Grapes are also used in making raisins.

History of Winemaking

Over 7,000 years ago in the Neolithic period, men grew wild grapes for winemaking. Evidence indicates that the countries of Georgia and Armenia were among the first countries to make wine from wild grapes. There are evidence that back in 4100 BC, there were some first winemaking site in Armenia where wine press, fermentation vats, cups, and jars were discovered in “Areni-1” cave. Archeologists suggest winemaking process had begun around 3200BC in the near east in the Bronze Age. Ancient wine jars have been used to learn the wine culture and consumption and the seeds used in grape production. The earlier “wild” grapes are said to have been hermaphrodites in that they would self-pollinate. Thucydides, a Greek historian, referring to a period between 3,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE wrote about the Mediterranean emerging from Barbarism to learning how to grow olive and vines. Viticulture began forcefully in Asia Minor, Greece, and Cyclades Islands. During the time grape production leaped making wine for local consumption to international trade.

Phoenicians back in 1200 BC and 900 BC had developed viticulture which was later used in Carthage. During these ancient times, grapes were trained to grow up along tree trunks but Columella, a Roman writer, suggested raising the grapevine from the ground using stakes, and this had many benefits to the grapevine. Prune to remove dense foliage became easier, dangers associated with tree climbing were minimized, and the vines got direct sunlight. Harvesting also became easier. Roman viticulturists suggested planting vines on the hillside to be a better idea because cool air runs downhill which is beneficial to the vines. Too much cool air is like the winter is dangerous because it leads to frost and denies the vines the advantage to photosynthesis.

Between the 5th and 15th century, the Catholic monks were the most prominent viticulturists. In France, laborers worked on a contractual basis with landowners. Here, the laborer was given freedom to choose the kind of seed to grow and also to develop their method of cultivation. The white variety of grape was found to be resistant to the damp and cold climates making it the better-suited crop in cold environments. By the 18th century, pruning had become essential making wine produced become unique in particular places. Rich landowners and the poor laborers experienced conflicts because the landowners looked at the quality of wine produced while the laborer counted on the quantity of wine they would sell.

Uses of Grapes

Grapes are berries. The system through which grapes are organized is called clustering. Some clusters contain grapes which are compact berries while others are spread out. Long clustered grapes spread out while short clusters are packed together. Some grapes ripen together making harvesting easier while others ripen individually within the same cluster. Raisins are made from dried grapes which could be seedless and they are used in cooking, brewing, and baking. Fertilization occurs in one to four seeds within a berry. Inside each grape, there is a rachis which allows the grape to get nutrients and water. One plant can produce 100 to 200 grapes. The skin of grape weighs about 5% to 20% of the total weight of the grape. The skin when ripe contains tannin and some aromatic substances. When the grape is ripe, the tannin is used to formulate color and body shape.

Conditions For Growing Grapes

Each type of grape has a favorable climatic condition. Temperatures and rainfall are uncontrollable conditions and each year will see the growth of unique grapes. During summer times, the right temperatures help in the ripening of the grapes. These cool temperatures allow for the resting of the fruit. Very cold temperatures cause frosting of the fruit. The grapevine should also be on a hillside, and this allows for sunrays falling at an angle where all vines get sunshine, unlike on flat ground where the sunrays do not reach every plant well. Slopes also offer better drainage. Quality soil is important in determining the health and growth of the vine. The right kind of soil allows for the plant's roots to develop well. Soil with loose texture, moderate fertility, and great drainage are favorable for grape growth.

Problems Facing Grape Farming

Weather conditions like wind, frost, a lot of heat, and poor drainage are some of the factors that adversely affect the quality grape harvest. Diseases are also rife among the grape farmrs. Some of the viticulture hazards include oidium, downy mildew, fan leaf, plant virus, and phylloxera. Spraying the plants with copper sulfate treats the problem of downy mildew. Some species from North America have developed resistance to this disease. Fanleaf has no cure so affected are removed. Oidium can be terminal and does well in the shade and cooler temperatures.

Grape Harvesting

A green harvest is done on immature grapes to reduce yield. Removing those green grapes helps the remaining ones to put their energy into developing better and healthy grapes. A healthy, vigorous and more mature flavor compound is achieved through removing some bunches of green grapes. The practice of intermixing different varieties of grapes produces a wine called a field blend. Field blend allows for effortlessly blending of different varieties with different genetic makeup. In Germany, field blend is called a mixed set.

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