The vine is a climbing plant of the Vitaceae family. It is a woody and herbaceous plant native to Asia, which today is cultivated throughout the world, especially in temperate regions, since the grape, the main ingredient of wine, is obtained from it.
The true lovers of the best red wine are those who also know everything about the vines. The grape tree is, in fact, a vine, a herbaceous plant with a woody trunk and climbing branches, the vine leaves are wide and palmate, which, during its growth, have a spiral shape and are called branches. It is part of the plants of the “Vitis Vinifera” family and from its fruit, the grape, all types of wine are made.
The meaning of vine is given by the organization of these plants. The name derives from “vineyard”, which is the name given to the group of vines dedicated to winemaking, within a farm or plot.
How is the vineyard?
The grape plant has been with the human being since prehistory, specifically since the Paleolithic, and its cultivation began in Asia, from where it spread throughout Europe and, centuries later, it moved to the American continent. The vine usually grows best in warm or temperate terrain, although some groups of vines also grow in cooler places, as would be the case with Riesling or Viognier.
In order to fully understand wine, it is necessary to understand the vine, since only if we are able to know the grape and the different parts of the vine, will we be able to appreciate and understand the different processes necessary for winemaking and to know its origin., something fundamental to differentiate good wine and enjoy these drinks.
The first thing that strikes you about the vine is that, unlike other fruit-bearing species, it is not a tree. Nor is it a plant, in the strict sense, since it has a well-defined woody trunk. However, this trunk does not grow tall, but uses a “guardian”. That is, a stable surface on which its leaves and stems tangle to grow. For this reason, it is much more accurate to say that it is a vine, a plant that grows “climbing” on a surface.
The life cycle of the vine
The vine has a very marked life cycle. In winter, the vine leaf dries up and falls off, leaving the plant looking dull and aged. Beneath the thick bark, however, the sap continues to flow, and when spring comes, the shoots begin to sprout again, reviving within a few weeks and creating lively, showy foliage. Soon after, the first traces of the flower of the vine appear, from which the grapes will be born.
Vine vines, even wild ones, can live for more than a century. However, as they get older, they offer fewer fruits, although these are of better quality, since the grains are smaller, with less water and a higher concentration of sugars and other substances, which give the wine an exceptional organoleptic quality.. This is because, as they grow, the roots sink deeper into the earth, reaching the subsoil and making better use of its mineral resources.
Despite the fact that the oldest vines are the ones that offer the best fruit, vineyards over 40 or 50 years old are not usually used to make the best wines, since after this age, grape production is too low. and it is not profitable for wineries. On the other hand, vines less than 5 years old are not used for winemaking either, since up to 6 years old the roots are still in formation and the plant has not created its root system, so the grapes still do not have the quantity of sugars and the quality necessary for the elaboration of the wine.
The growth of the vine is affected by many factors, both climatic and breeding. In this way, the chemical composition of the soil, the climate of the area, exposure to the sun and even competition with other vines for soil resources can affect its growth. This, in turn, affects the quality and properties of the wine, so the origin and characteristics of the grape are decisive factors in the final quality of the wine.
The parts of the vineyard
Among the parts of the vine, we first find the trunk, twisted and with a characteristic bark, made up of filaments. Although we are used to seeing the trunks of the vines with a short size, in reality they can grow to several meters in height. However, for cultivation and harvesting, this growth is limited.
On the other hand, the vine also has branches, called vine shoots, which are flexible and divide into nodes, each one of them provided with tendrils that become entangled and allow the plant to climb upwards to seek the sun.
The leaves, also called shoots, always appear on the opposite side to the tendrils, are broad and palm-shaped, with a smooth upper part and a slightly hairy upper part. The flowers of the vine are inconspicuous, small, green and without aroma. They are born in clusters and are star-shaped, with five petals each.
From these bunches of flowers the grapes are born, which are very juicy fruits with dark or light skin depending on the variety. Among the parts of the grape, it is worth highlighting the pruin, a substance that covers its skin and makes it waterproof. Although most varieties have four seeds, farmers have learned how to graft a vine, which through crosses, produces seedless grapes.
Knowing all this about the grape vine, it is easier to understand how complex winemaking is.