Vitis (grapevines) is a genus of about 60 species of vining plants in the flowering plant family Vitaceae. The genus is made up of species predominantly from the Northern hemisphere. It is economically important as the source of grapes, both for direct consumption of the fruit and for fermentation to produce wine. The study and cultivation of grapevines is called viticulture.
All vines share the same basic, physiological features. The roots anchor the vine to the soil and serve as the conduit where nutrients and water from the soil are absorbed. Along with the trunk or "permanent wood" features, the roots also serve as storage reserve of carbohydrates which the vine can use for energy in the winter after the leaves have fallen and are no longer conducting photosynthesis. The function of photosynthesis in the grapevine is to produce glucose which can be combined with other molecules to form larger carbohydrates (such as cellulose) that can be used to create other structures in the vine, energy reserves for the plant and, for fruiting grapevines, can be concentrated in grape berries which contain the reproductive seeds of the vine and are more attractive to birds and other animals.
Other parts of the grapevine include the tendrils which the vine uses to support itself by clinging to surrounding structures (such as the trellising of a vine-training system) and the shoots which sprout from the permanent wood and contain nodes where new leaves, flowers and tendrils can form. At the joint where leaves connect to the shoot are buds or "embryonic shoots" that contain the structures that will grow into the following years shoots, tendrils, flowers and leaves.
Most Vitis varieties are wind-pollinated with hermaphroditic flowers containing both male and female reproductive structures. These flowers are grouped in bunches called inflorescences. In many varieties, such as Vitis vinifera, each successfully pollinated flower becomes a grape berry with the inflorescence turning into a cluster of grapes. While the flowers of the grapevines are usually very small, the berries are often big, brightly colored with sweet flavors that attract birds and animals to disperse the seeds contained within the berries.
Grapevines usually only produce fruit on shoots that came from buds that were developed during the previous growing season. In viticulture, this is one of the principles behind pruning the previous years growth (or "One year old wood") that includes shoots that have turned hard and woody during the winter (after harvest in commercial viticulture). These vines will be pruned either into a cane which will support 8 to 15 buds or to a smaller spur which holds 2 to 3 buds.
Vitis is distinguished from other genera of Vitaceae by having petals which remain joined at the tip and detach from the base to fall together as a calyptra or 'cap'. The flowers are unisexual or modified to act functionally as unisexual, they are pentamerous with a hypogynous disk. The calyx is greatly reduced or nonexistent in most species and the petals are joined at the summit into one unit but separated at the base. Flower buds are formed later in the growing season and overwinter for blooming in spring of the next year. There are two types of flowers produced, sterile flowers with five long filaments and erect stamens with undeveloped pistils and fertile flowers with well-developed pistils and that have five undeveloped reflexed stamens. The fruit is a berry, normally produced with four or less per flower by way of aborted embryos, ovoid in shape and juicy.
Most Vitis species have 38 chromosomes (n=19), but 40 (n=20) in subgenus Muscadinia. In that respect the Muscadinia are the same as other Vitaceae such as Ampelocissus, Parthenocissus, and Ampelopsis.
Most Vitis species are found in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in North America and Asia with a few in the tropics. The wine grape Vitis vinifera originated in southern Europe and southwestern Asia. The species occur in widely different geographical areas and show a great diversity of form.
Their growth makes leaf collection challenging and polymorphic leaves make identification of species difficult. Mature grapevines can grow up to 48 cm in diameter at breast height and reach the upper canopy of trees more than 35 m in height (Everhart 2010, PDF)
Many species are sufficiently closely related to allow easy interbreeding and the resultant interspecific hybrids are invariably fertile and vigorous. Thus the concept of a species is less well defined and more likely represents the identification of different ecotypes of Vitis that have evolved in distinct geographical and environmental circumstances.
- Vitis vinifera, the European grapevine. Native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia.
- Vitis labrusca, the Fox grapevine, sometimes used for wine. Native to the Eastern United States and Canada.
- Vitis riparia, the Riverbank Grapevine, sometimes used for winemaking and for jam. Native to the entire Eastern U.S. and north to Quebec.
- Vitis aestivalis, the Summer Grape, native to the Eastern United States, especially the Southeastern United States.
- Vitis rotundifolia (syn. Muscadinia rotundifolia), the Muscadine, used for jams and wine. Native to the Southeastern United States from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Vitis rupestris, the Rock grapevine, used for breeding of Phylloxera resistant rootstock. Native to the Southern United States.
- Vitis coignetiae Crimson Glory Vine, a species from East Asia grown as an ornamental plant for its crimson autumn foliage.
- Vitis amurensis, native to the Asian continent, including parts of Siberia and China.
- Vitis vulpina, the Frost Grape, native to the Eastern United States, from Massachusetts to Florida, and west to Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas. Treated by some as a synonym of V. riparia.
There are many cultivars of grapevines; most are cultivars of V. vinifera.
Hybrid grapes also exist, and these are primarily crosses between V. vinifera and one or more of V. labrusca, V. riparia or V. aestivalis. Hybrids tend to be less susceptible to frost and disease (notably phylloxera), but wine from some hybrids may have a little of the characteristic "foxy" taste of V. labrusca.
According to the "Food and Agriculture Organization" (FAO), 75,866 square kilometres of the world is dedicated to grapes. Approximately 71% of world grape production is used for wine, 27% as fresh fruit, and 2% as dried fruit. A portion of grape production goes to producing grape juice to be used as a sweetener for fruits canned "with no added sugar" and "100% natural". The area dedicated to vineyards is increasing by about 2% per year.
The following list of top wine-producers shows the corresponding areas dedicated to grapes for wine making:
- Spain 11,750 km²
- France 8,640 km²
- Italy 8,270 km²
- Turkey 8,120 km²
- United States 4,150 km²
- Iran 2,860 km²(There is no wine produced in Iran; Grape is used as a favorite fruit there, also the leaves of the grape vines are widely used in cooking in Iran.)
- Romania 2,480 km²
- Portugal 2,160 km²
- Argentina 2,080 km²
- Australia 1,642 km²
- Lebanon 1,221 km²
Grapevines are widely cultivated by gardeners, and numerous suppliers cater specifically for this trade. The plants are valued for their decorative foliage, often colouring brightly in autumn; their ability to clothe walls, pergolas and arches, thus providing shade; and their fruits, which may be eaten as dessert or provide the basis for homemade wines. Popular varieties include:-
Pests and diseases
Phylloxera is an American root aphid that devastated V. vinifera vineyards in Europe when accidentally introduced in the late 19th century. Attempts were made to breed in resistance from American species, but many winemakers didn't like the unusual flavour profile of the hybrid vines. Fortunately, V. vinifera grafts readily onto rootstocks of the American species, and most commercial production of grapes now relies on such grafts.
The Black vine weevil is another root pest.
The grape vine (typically Vitis vinifera) has been used as a symbol since ancient times. In Greek mythology, Dionysus (called Bacchus by the Romans) was god of the vintage and, therefore, a grape vine with bunches of the fruit are among his attributes. His attendants at the Bacchanalian festivals hence had the vine as an attribute, together with the thyrsus, the latter often entwined with vine branches. For the same reason, the Greek wine cup (cantharos) is commonly decorated with the vine and grapes, wine being drunk as a libation to the god.
In Christian iconography, the vine also frequently appears. It is mentioned several times in the New Testament. We have the parable of the kingdom of heaven likened to the father starting to engage laborers for his vineyard. The vine is used as symbol of Jesus Christ based on his own statement, “I am the vine.” In that sense, a vine is placed as sole symbol on the tomb of Constantia, the sister of Constantine the Great, and elsewhere. In Byzantine art, the vine and grapes figure in early mosaics, and on the throne of Maximianus of Ravenna it is used as a decoration.
The vine as symbol of the chosen people is employed several times in the Old Testament. The vine and wheat ear have been frequently used as symbol of the blood and flesh of Christ, hence figuring as symbols (bread and wine) of the Eucharist and are found depicted on ostensories. Often the symbolic vine laden with grapes is found in ecclesiastical decorations with animals biting at the grapes. At times, the vine is used as symbol of temporal blessing.
- Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 105-121.
- "PLANTS Profile for Vitis (grape)". USDA. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
- GRIN. "Species in GRIN for genus Vitis". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
- V. kelungensis, V. yeshanensis Ahmet Güner; Gábor Gyulai, Zoltán Tóth, Gülsüm Asena Başlı, Zoltán Szabó, Ferenc Gyulai, András Bittsánszky, Luther Waters Jr, and László Heszky (2008). "Grape (Vitis vinifera) seeds from Antiquity and the Middle Ages Excavated in Hungary - LM and SEM analysis". Anadolu Univ J Sci Technol. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Wine & Spirits Education Trust "Wine and Spirits: Understanding Wine Quality" pgs 2-5, Second Revised Edition (2012), London, ISBN 9781905819157
- Gleason and Cronquist volume 2, New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, p. 517. LCCN 63-16478
- Galet, Pierre (2000). Dictionnaire encyclopédique des cépages. Hachette Pratique. ISBN 2-01-236331-8.
- "PLANTS Profile for Vitis vulpina (snow grape)". USDA. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
- Jain, E.; Bairoch, A.; Duvaud, S.; Phan, I.; Redaschi, N.; Suzek, B.E.; Martin, M.J.; McGarvey, P.; Gasteiger, E. (November 3, 2009). "Vitis riparia (Frost grape) (Vitis vulpina)". The Universal Protein Resource (UniProt). The UniProt Consortium. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
- Klein, Carol (2009). Grow your own fruit. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845334345.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Vitis 'Brant '". Retrieved June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector Vitis coignetiae". Retrieved June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Vitis 'New York Muscat'". Retrieved June 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Vitis 'Purpurea'". Retrieved June 2013.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Clement W. Coumbe (1920). "Vine in Art and Symbolism". In Rines, George Edwin. Encyclopedia Americana.
- Francesco Emanuelli, Silvia Lorenzi, Lukasz Grzeskowiak, Valentina Catalano, Marco Stefanini, Michela Troggio, Sean Myles, José M. Martinez-Zapater, Eva Zyprian, Flavia M. Moreira, and M. Stella Grando (2013). "Genetic diversity and population structure assessed by SSR and SNP markers in a large germplasm collection of grape". BMC Plant Biology (BioMed Central Ltd.) 13: 39. doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-39.
- Media related to Vitis at Wikimedia Commons