4 Popular Vineyard Growing Methods for Wine
Are Wine Grapes Grown In The Same Manner Virtually All Over the World?
Humans have cultivated grapes for thousands of years. Along the way, they’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.
Training vines, or the art of growing a grapevine in a certain style, will depend on site, soil vigor (nutrients), grapevine vigor, water availability, growing climate, and even labor availability.
Based on that knowledge, grape growing regions of the world use different ways to grow grapes.
We have found that while there are many techniques, there are 4 main methods that have stood out to be the most popular for vineyards grown across the globe.
The growing methods we will be covering here are:
- Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP)
- Bush Vines
- Basket Training
- Pergola Training
Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP)
Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) – VSP is what you probably picture in your mind when you think of a modern vineyard: long rows of vines with each vine sporting one or two arms along a grape vine trellis wire. The vine foliage grows up to catch the sunlight, and the grapes hang down along the wire.
Growing grapes on a trellis is widespread for several good reasons:
The grape trellis allows for mechanization, an important factor where there’s limited availability of manual labor (e.g., Australia), or producers are concerned with minimizing overhead costs (e.g., bulk wine).
VSP reduces the need for chemical inputs. Trellising maximizes airflow and sun exposure that will decrease fungal pressure (less need for chemical fumigants).
Training vines along a trellis will maximize photosynthesis for optimal berry ripening.
Trellising supports drip irrigation, with piping running along the grape trellis system.
Most modern vineyards use VSP as a vineyard trellis system, but there are other grape cultivation methods, too.
World Wine Production: Unique Viticultural Approaches
Perhaps the one of the oldest approaches to viticulture, bush vine is just the vine growing by itself. In some places, the vine will have one or two support stakes. Bush vine training is common where the elements can damage the vine, because the bush can protect the vine.
For example, in the Rhone region, the Mistral wind can rip off leaves and interrupt fruiting. By training the vine in a bush, the canes and leaves can offer some protection to the vine. In hotter growing regions like central Spain, bush vines protect berries from intense heat thanks to the leaves offering shade.
Unique to the Grecian island of Santorini, growers use basket training, known locally as stefani. They train the vines in a basket shape, weaving the vines together in a circular pattern, keeping them low to the ground. As the vines grow longer, the new growth is manipulated back into the woven, nest-like shape, adding to its cone-like appearance as it gains height. Eventually the vine resembles an actual basket of vines sitting on the ground.
Additionally, basket-trained vines grow the grape clusters inside the basket, which does not hinder or compromise their yield. Methods like this are primarily used in order to protect them from maritime winds and harsh weather.
Pergola training is another traditional viticultural method. Here, farmers would train their grapevines up high off the ground so that they could grow other food crops on the ground underneath, maximizing their land.
Today, pergolas are still in use in regions with fickle weather. In the Rías Baixas region of northwestern Spain, growers use pergolas to increase airflow to their Albariño grapes which are susceptible to rot from a humid, maritime climate. In the Veneto region of Italy, growers use pergolas for the same reason and also to help control vigor in their Corvina grapes destined for Amarone. Across the globe in the shadows of the Andes in Argentina, growers use pergolas to protect their Torrontés grapes from intense solar radiation.
Different methods to grow grapevines have evolved to adapt to diverse growing regions. Vineyards have an expected lifespan of about 30 years, so any decision to use one system over another could have a significant impact on profitability for several decades. Today, viticulturalists depend on their understanding of climate, soil, vineyard location, and the final wine style to decide how to grow wine grapes.
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Author Bio: Erin O’Reilly, Certified Specialist of Wine, is a wine writer and educator. She pens her work from Monterey wine country where she raises a glass to the growers and producers crafting wines that transcend time.