Eric Stafne, Mississippi State University
Vitis vinifera grapes are often referred to as Old World or European grapes and are believed to have originated in Asia Minor. There have been more than 5,000 named cultivars. They currently constitute the majority of the world’s grape acreage, although hybrid wine grapes that have V. vinifera parentage also exist in non-traditional growing regions. Only recently have V. vinifera grapes been grown successfully east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States.
Suitable Growing Climates
The range in which V. vinifera can be successfully cultivated is limited by climate. This species prefers and, in some cases, requires:
- a long growing season
- relatively high summer temperatures
- low humidity
- a rain-free harvest period
- mild winter temperatures
Vinifera grapes are also susceptible to many diseases, insect pests, and other problems when grown outside of traditional climates. During the course of the last century, these issues have severely limited their potential in the eastern U.S. and therefore, long-term sustainability of V. vinifera in much of the continental U.S. is still in question.
Vinifera grapes are most often used for wine, but they can also be used for juice, raisins, canned goods, or fresh consumption.
|Cabernet Sauvignon||Petit Verdot|
|Chenin Blanc||Pinot Noir|
Vinifera clones are quite common. The term clone refers to one or more vines that originated from an individual vine, which was in some way unique from other vines of the same cultivar. This often occurs due to a mutation. All grape cultivars are propagated by asexual means to preserve the unique characteristics of the cultivar, but slight genetic variations commonly occur. To be considered a distinct clone, there must be a unique difference from other clones, although sometimes the difference is slight. Differences among clones of the same cultivar are generally much smaller than differences among cultivars, but often the difference can be important.
Clones may have differences in:
- time of budbreak
- time of ripening
- cluster formation
- cluster size
- cluster compactness
- berry size
- fruit yield
- fruit quality
- other important characteristics
If the difference is desirable, the vine is propagated to perpetuate the new characteristics. Thus, a new clone is assigned a number or given a name to distinguish it from other clones. Although more attention is being given to selecting certain clones for certain planting locations, experience with different clones is extremely limited in much of the U.S.
Grape Varieties, University of California
Table Grape Varieties for Cool Climates, Cornell University
Reviewed by Jim Wolpert, University of California
and Keith Striegler, University of Missouri