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Temporal range: 60–0 Ma Paleocene- Recent
Vitis californica with grapes.jpg
Vitis californica with fruit
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Vitales
Family: Vitaceae
Subfamily: Vitoideae
Genus: Vitis
Type species
Vitis vinifera

Vitis (grapevines) is a genus of 79 accepted species[5] 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.

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 species, 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 large and brightly colored with sweet flavors that attract birds and other animals to disperse the seeds contained within the berries.[6]

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 year's 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.[6]


Developing inflorescences of Vitis vinifera

Flower buds are formed late in the growing season and overwinter for blooming in spring of the next year. They produce leaf-opposed cymes. 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 mostly bisexual,[7]: 143  pentamerous, with a hypogynous disk. The calyx is greatly reduced or nonexistent in most species and the petals are joined together at the tip into one unit but separated at the base. The fruit is a berry, ovoid in shape and juicy, with a two-celled ovary each containing two ovules, thus normally producing four seeds per flower (or fewer by way of aborted embryos).[8]

Other parts of the vine include the tendrils which are leaf-opposed, branched in Vitis vinifera, and are used to support the climbing plant by twining onto surrounding structures such as branches or the trellising of a vine-training system.

In the wild, all species of Vitis are normally dioecious, but under domestication, variants with perfect flowers appear to have been selected.

The genus Vitis is divided into two subgenera Euvitis Planch. have 38 chromosomes (n=19) with berries borne on clusters[9] and Muscadinia Planch. 40 (n=20) with small clusters.[10][11]


Vitis coignetiae with autumn leaves

Most Vitis species are found mostly in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in North America and eastern Asia, exceptions being a few in the tropics and the wine grape Vitis vinifera which originated in southern Europe and southwestern Asia. Grape 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 (19 in) in diameter at breast height and reach the upper canopy of trees more than 35 m (115 ft) in height.[12]

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.

The exact number of species is not certain, with species in Asia in particular being poorly defined.[13] Approximately 25 species are known in North American and about 55 in eastern Asia. Just one, Vitis vinifera has Eurasian origins.[14] Some of the more notable include:

There are many cultivars of grapevines; most are cultivars of V. vinifera. One of them includes, Vitis 'Ornamental Grape'.

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.

The Latin word Vitis has feminine grammatical gender,[18] and therefore species names with adjectival specific epithets take feminine forms, such as V. vinifera.[19][a]


The fruit of several Vitis species are grown commercially for consumption as fresh grapes and for fermentation into wine.[21] Vitis vinifera is the most important such species.[22]

The leaves of several species of grapevine are edible and are used in the production of dolmades and Vietnamese lot leaves.[23]

Commercial distribution[edit]

Vitis for producing Sherry at Jerez.
Vitis near a house in Hontecillas.

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 (regardless of the grapes’ final destination):[24]

Country Area under vine (ha x103) Grape production (metric ton x106)
 World 7511 75.7
 Spain 1021 6.0
 China 830 12.6
 France 786 6.3
 Italy 682 8.2
 Turkey 497 3.6
 United States 419 7.0
 Argentina 225 2.4
 Iran 223 2.1
 Portugal 217
 Chile 211 3.1
 Romania 192
 Australia 149 1.7
 Moldova 140
 South Africa 130 2.0
 India 120 2.6
 Brazil 85 1.5
 Bulgaria 60
 New Zealand 39

Domestic cultivation[edit]

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:-

The following varieties have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-[26]

  • 'Boskoop Glory'[27] (dessert/wine)
  • 'Brant'[28] (black dessert)
  • 'Claret Cloak' or 'Frovit'[29] (ornamental)
  • 'New York Muscat'[30] (black dessert)
  • 'Purpurea'[31] (ornamental)

Pests and diseases[edit]

'Palatina', a Hungary grape

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. However, V. vinifera grafts readily onto rootstocks of the American species and their hybrids with V. vinifera, and most commercial production of grapes now relies on such grafts.

The black vine weevil is another root pest.

Grapevines are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - see list of Lepidoptera that feed on grapevines


The grapevine (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 grapevine 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 true vine (John 15:1).” 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.[32]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ -fer is an adjectival suffix, with forms -fer (M), -fera (F), and -ferum (N).[20]


  1. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Vitis (grape)". USDA. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  2. ^ GRIN. "Species in GRIN for genus Vitis". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
  3. ^  V. kelungensis, V. yeshanensis Ahmet Güner; =Gábor Gyulai; Zoltán Tóth; Gülsüm Asena Başlı; Zoltán Szabó; Ferenc Gyulai; András Bittsánszky; Luther Waters Jr.; László Heszky (2008). "Grape (Vitis vinifera) seeds from Antiquity and the Middle Ages Excavated in Hungary - LM and SEM analysis" (PDF). Anadolu Univ J Sci Technol. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 23, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  4. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  5. ^ "The Plant List: Vitis". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2013.
  6. ^ a b Wine & Spirits Education Trust "Wine and Spirits: Understanding Wine Quality" pgs 2-5, Second Revised Edition (2012), London, ISBN 9781905819157
  7. ^ Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521707725.
  8. ^ Gleason and Cronquist volume 2, New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, p. 517. LCCN 63-16478
  9. ^ Bennett, M.D.; Leitch, I.J. (2012). "Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Plant DNA C-values database, release 6.0". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Archived from the original on 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  10. ^ "Vitis rotundifolia Muscadine Grape, Scuppernong". Plant of the Week: Vitis rotundifolia Muscadine Grape, Scuppernong. University of Arkansas. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  11. ^ Lu, Jiang; Lamikanra, Olusola (1996). "Barriers to Intersubgeneric Crosses between Muscadinia and Euvitis". HortScience. American Society for Horticultural Science. 31 (2): 269–271. doi:10.21273/hortsci.31.2.269. ISSN 0018-5345.
  12. ^ Everhart SE (2010). "Upper Canopy Collection and Identification of Grapevines (Vitis) from Selected Forests in the Southeastern United States". Castanea (From University of Nebraska Digital Commons). 75 (1): 141–149.
  13. ^ Galet, Pierre (2000). Dictionnaire encyclopédique des cépages. Hachette Pratique. ISBN 2-01-236331-8.
  14. ^ "Distribution of the world's grapevine varieties" (PDF). Paris: OIV - International Organization of Vine and Wine. 2017. ISBN 979-10-91799-89-8.
  15. ^ "SEINet Portal Network - Vitis arizonica".
  16. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Vitis vulpina (snow grape)". USDA. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Lewis, C.T.; Short, C. (1958), A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  19. ^ McNeill, J.; Barrie, F.R.; Buck, W.R.; Demoulin, V.; Greuter, W.; Hawksworth, D.L.; Herendeen, P.S.; Knapp, S.; Marhold, K.; Prado, J.; Prud'homme Van Reine, W.F.; Smith, G.F.; Wiersema, J.H.; Turland, N.J. (2012), International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011, Regnum Vegetabile 154, A.R.G. Gantner Verlag KG, ISBN 978-3-87429-425-6 Article 23.5
  20. ^ Stearn, W.T. (1992), Botanical Latin: History, grammar, syntax, terminology and vocabulary, Fourth edition, David and Charles
  21. ^ Frenkel, Omer; Brewer, Marin Talbot; Milgroom, Michael G. (2010). "Variation in Pathogenicity and Aggressiveness of Erysiphe necator from Different Vitis spp. and Geographic Origins in the Eastern United States". Phytopathology. 100 (11): 1185–1193. doi:10.1094/PHYTO-01-10-0023. ISSN 0031-949X. PMID 20932167.
  22. ^ Brown, Kelly; Sims, Charles; Odabasi, Asli; Bartoshuk, Linda; Conner, Patrick; Gray, Dennis (2016). "Consumer Acceptability of Fresh-Market Muscadine Grapes". Journal of Food Science. 81 (11): S2808–S2816. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13522. ISSN 1750-3841. PMID 27741360. Nearly all table grapes that are sold in commercial markets are V. vinifera.
  23. ^ Cosme, Fernanda; Pinto, Teresa; Vilela, Alice (2017). "Oenology in the Kitchen: The Sensory Experience Offered by Culinary Dishes Cooked with Alcoholic Drinks, Grapes and Grape Leaves". Beverages. 3 (4): 42. doi:10.3390/beverages3030042.
  24. ^ "OIV Statistical Report on World Vitiviniculture 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  25. ^ Klein, Carol (2009). Grow your own fruit. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845334345.
  26. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 107. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Vitis 'Boskoop Glory'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  28. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Vitis 'Brant '". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Vitis Claret Cloak = 'Frovit'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  30. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Vitis 'New York Muscat'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  31. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Vitis 'Purpurea'". Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  32. ^ This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainClement W. Coumbe (1920). "Vine in Art and Symbolism" . In Rines, George Edwin (ed.). Encyclopedia Americana.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Vitis at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Vitis at Wikispecies
  • List of 48 descriptors defined in the GRAPEGEN06 project (selected from the 151 OIV descriptors published in June 2007)