More on Planting a Vineyard

On establishing your site’s capacity for ripening grapes its important to take time to consider what you want from your vineyard. Some owners want to grow grapes solely for making their own wines (Producer), whereas others choose to grow grapes for sale, either under contract or on the open market (Grower). Whichever path you choose it’s important to have a plan on how you intend to manage your vineyard and make it profitable.

Conventional / Sustainable / Organic / Bio-Dynamic

All vineyard owners have an opinion on how best to grow grapes and it’s important that you are comfortable with the method of farming you wish to carryout. An organic vineyard will most likely be setup differently to a conventional one. All methods have their positive and negative traits, but all have their place in viticulture. I believe that no grower, conventional or otherwise wants to destroy the environment they live and work in and in-fact we should do our best to learn and compare the techniques and practices adopted by one another to continue improving upon our productivity, quality and environmental impact.

organic vineyard
biodynamic vineyard

Varieties

Almost all commercial wines in the world are made from the species Vitis vinifera. Whether it is Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Bacchus all of these varieties are types of Vitis vinifera. WineGB’s 2020 survey report estimates an area of 3,500Ha of vineyard in the UK with 65% consisting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are very versatile and their early ripening capability makes them well suited to cool climate viticulture, however their susceptibility to frost damage and mildew infection makes them difficult to grow. Choosing which varieties to plant is mostly governed by your sites capacity to ripen, but as a grower you also need to consider which grapes producers want to buy now and, in the future, and for producers you need to be able to grow varieties that will make the wine styles you enjoy drinking and want to sell. All sorts of consumer data and statistics can be found at The Wines and Spirit Trade Association website

Clones

In winemaking we want to try and keep variables to a minimum, therefore when planting a vineyard, we use clones (cuttings from an existing grapevine) grafted onto rootstock, rather than germinating seeds, which naturally produce genetic differences as part of evolutionary progression. Clonal characteristics such as bunch weight, berry size and productivity as well as flavour profile, sugar accumulation and rot susceptibility are some of the variations available when choosing a clone, and although variety specific there could be dozens to choose from. When selecting a clone, it is important to consider the environmental features and ripening capacity of your site as well as the wine styles you hope to make.

Rootstock

 
In the mid-19th Century Vitis vinifera vines were grown on their own roots, until an outbreak of a vine root-eating pest (phylloxeraswept across Europe killing vineyards over decades. By the 1880’s resistant American species (non- Vitis vinifera vines) were developed for grafting. Today almost all Vitis vinifera vines are grafted onto American rootstock but this isn’t just because of their resistance to phylloxera. Rootstocks have now been propagated to suit certain soil types. pH, calcium content, water holding capacity, soil texture, vigour and nutrient availability are some of the criteria that need to be carefully assessed when choosing a rootstock that will best match your sites soil conditions and ripening capacity.
planting a vineyard rootstock

Selecting the correct varieties, clones and rootstocks for a site is incredibly important and the ramifications if you get it wrong can be costly. Also be aware that some clones are not readily available and need to be ordered 18 months in advance to ensure they’re on the rootstock of choice. This can be frustrating but it is better to delay planting for a year instead of taking whatever vines are available.

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