Vitis vinifera (Grape tree) is more popularly referred to as grapevine. It is classified under the order Vitales. This order comprises only one family referred to as Vitaceae. The grapevine is native to central Europe, some parts of Asia and the Mediterranean region. Evidence shows that grapevines existed in these areas more than 65 million years ago.
Due to globalization, the tree has spread to almost every part of the world. It has, for a long time, been an important economic fruit crop for many countries. It is grown principally for wine production but may also be used for raisin and table berries. Production of wine from the grapevine has been around for a long time with some historians claiming that the activity may be as old as 7000 years.
On average, the tree grows to a height of about 35 meters. It produces berries known as grapes. The appearance of the fruit depends on whether the tree is a wild or a cultivated species. Wild grapes are about 6 mm in diameter while those from cultivated grapevines are about 3cm. Ripe fruits range in color from green, purple and red. The vines do well in humid conditions that are accompanied by an adequate water supply.
For many years the vines were greatly valued for their medicinal and nutritional values. Sap was extracted and used in treatment of a number of eye and skin conditions. The leaves were important in arresting bleeding and reducing pain associated with inflammation. Early farmers and foragers relied mainly on the wild types but with time, they learnt that they would get much more by domesticating the plants. Accounts from ancient Egypt show that wine had a special place in the society. It was reserved for the Pharaoh, priests and visitors at state functions.
Grapes may either be grown from their own roots or grafted onto old rootstocks. The latter option is not, however, associated with any benefits. On the contrary the old roots may have been destroyed by low winter temperatures and so new roots should be used as much as possible. Cuttings are collected after pruning has been done and induced to grow.
A good cutting should be just about as wide as a pencil (0.8 cm). Cuttings are divided into 3-bud to 6-bud sections and bundled up in groups of about 10. They are then placed in damp soils that should be well drained. This is done in late winter or early spring. When the weather warms up (in April and May) they are dug up and checked. Those that have callused well are picked and can be planted. An alternative is to use commercially available rooted vines.
Cuttings are planted with shoots facing upwards at a distance of about 7 feet. The buds usually require protection for the first few days. There is no need for fertilization at the start. Its use during growth is limited and is determined by presence of symptoms in the foliage. In the growing season, pruning is not done to allow for bearing of fruit. It is done in the next dormant season.
The Vitis vinifera (Grape tree) grows perennially. The timing of harvests largely depend on the purpose of the berries. If they are being grown for jelly, then they are harvested early. This is done to avoid formation of sugar crystals which usually cloud the product. Table berries are harvested when their flavor and color reaches the peak. Juice berries too have to be harvested when fully mature.