EducateIntroduction to Vines: The Anatomy of a Vine 

Introduction to Vines: The Anatomy of a Vine 

Welcome to our introduction to vines! In winemaking, there are so many factors that sometimes we forget that making wine is first and foremost, farming and agriculture. We all love how wine tastes, but do we know the basics of where it comes from? Whether you’re looking to start a vineyard, or just simply curious about how grapes make their way from the vine to your glass, understanding the types of vines, vine training methods, and the anatomy of a vine is essential knowledge to have. This article aims to shed light on the subject in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way. 

Vine Species 

Before diving into vine training methods and the anatomy of a vine, it’s helpful to know that grapevines come in various species, primarily Vitis Vinifera, which is native to the Mediterranean region, Central Europe, and parts of Asia. This species produces nearly all of the grapes used in winemaking and has been used to make wine for several thousand years. 

While Vitis Vinifera is the main species used in winemaking, American Vine Rootstocks are also used frequently due to their resistance to Phylloxera (a pest that attacks the vine’s roots). However, they are rarely used without the vine grafting process since by themselves, they are considered to have unattractive flavors. 

Anatomy of the Vine 

Let’s go through the parts of the vine. All grapevines have similar characteristics and can be categorized into four sections: the green parts, one-year-old wood, permanent wood, and the roots. 

The Green Parts: 

The green parts of a grapevine are those that are freshly grown each year from the shoots. They are vital for photosynthesis, reproduction, and the vine’s overall growth.

Buds: 

Photo Courtesy of Cultured Vine 

These are small growths on the vine from which shoots emerge in spring. They contain the primary elements for the next year’s growth, including leaves, tendrils, inflorescences (clusters of flowers), and potentially the initial stages of grape clusters. Buds are critical for the vine’s renewal and productivity.

Tendrils: 

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay 

Tendrils are thin, spiraling structures that emerge opposite the leaves and help support the vine by attaching to structures, allowing the vine to climb and access sunlight optimally. Tendrils are an adaptation to support the vine’s growth and ensure stability and sunlight exposure. 

Leaves: 

Photo Courtesy of Feedipedia 

Grapevine leaves are large, lobed, and pivotal for photosynthesis, the process by which the plant converts sunlight into energy. They also play a role in managing water loss through transpiration and can influence the microclimate around the grape clusters, impacting fruit development and ripeness.

Flowers and Berries:

Photo Courtesy of Jordan Vineyards 

Initially, the vine produces small flowers that are pollinated to form grapes. Grapevines are generally hermaphroditic, meaning each flower contains both male and female parts, allowing self-pollination. Following successful pollination, berries (grapes) develop, containing seeds for reproduction and being the primary product harvested from the vine for grape juice, raisins, and wine. 

One-Year-Old Wood 

Photo Courtesy of The Spruce 

One-year-old wood refers to the shoots that have hardened and matured over the course of a year. After the growing season, the green, flexible shoots become woody, providing the framework for next year’s growth. Pruning practices often focus on selecting which one-year-old wood to keep for the next year’s fruit production, as the buds on these canes will produce the next season’s shoots, leaves, flowers, and eventually, berries.

Permanent Wood

Photo Courtesy of flavors.qa

Permanent wood includes the trunk and the cordons (or arms of the vine). This is the structure from which the one-year-old wood grows. Permanent wood ages over the years and is essential for the vine’s overall structure and support. It serves as the main conduit for water and nutrients from the roots to the rest of the vine and is vital for the long-term health and productivity of the vine. 

The Roots 

While we couldn’t find a great image on roots, they are similar to any tree or plant you grow. That being said, Grapevine roots have multiple functions: they anchor the plant in the ground, absorb water and minerals from the soil, and can store nutrients and carbohydrates. The root system of a grapevine can be extensive. Some roots dive deep into the earth to access water from further beneath the surface, while others spread out more horizontally to collect nutrients. The health and depth of the root system significantly impact the vine’s resilience to drought and its overall health and productivity.

Training the Vines 

Now that we understand the anatomy of a vine, let’s jump a little into how these vines are trained. When it comes to growing vines in a vineyard, there are two main styles people use:

Head Training

Photo Courtesy of Andis Wine 

Head Training, or Bush Training, promotes the growth of vines in a self-supporting, bush-like formation. This technique encourages a central trunk from which branches radiate outward. Primarily adopted in regions with a preference for traditional viticulture and minimal mechanization, head training fosters natural vine expansion, facilitating optimal sunlight penetration and air circulation. This approach is advantageous for disease mitigation and is particularly suitable for hardy, drought-resistant grape varieties that thrive without the need for trellising.

Pruning in head-trained vines usually involves Spur Pruning, a method where short, stub-like branches (spurs) are retained. These spurs are the origin of the new seasonal growth, ensuring adequate exposure to sunlight and airflow, critical in regions prone to disease or requiring precise ripening conditions.

Cordon Training

Photo Courtesy of Guild Somm

Contrastingly, Cordon Training shapes vines to extend horizontally along trellises from the main trunk, forming a T-like architecture. This stationary wood framework (the cordon) supports vertically growing, fruit-bearing shoots. Cordon training is adaptable, often utilized in conjunction with Spur Pruning or Cane Pruning to foster the forthcoming season’s growth. The structure introduced by cordon training simplifies vineyard management operations like pruning, pest management, and harvesting due to its orderly configuration.

Complementary to cordon training, Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) is a trellising method that directs the vine’s shoots upward, supported by wires or other materials. This setup maximizes sunlight exposure and promotes efficient air circulation, contributing to healthier vine growth and aiding disease prevention. VSP is instrumental in vine canopy management, allowing for optimal development of leaves and fruit, thereby being a preferred strategy for producing high-quality grapes.

The Picture below from Lodi Growers shows an amazing image of the difference between the two, and some more variations that are possible. 

In essence, head training allows vines to grow with minimal intervention, emphasizing natural shape and resilience, while cordon training, enhanced with VSP, introduces structure and supports systematic growth. Both approaches play crucial roles in viticulture, tailored to meet specific environmental conditions, grape varietal needs, and quality objectives.

So, Why Train Vines?

Training vines is a crucial aspect of viticulture. The main objectives are to expose the grape clusters to adequate sunlight, manage diseases by ensuring good air circulation, and maximize the use of land. Moreover, a well-trained vineyard can significantly affect grape quality, yield, and the ease of harvesting. Let’s look at a couple of popular vine training systems and their impact on grape production:

Vine Training Influences on Grape Production

The way a vine is trained and managed has a direct impact on the grapes it produces. Vine training can affect:

Sunlight Exposure: 

Essential for photosynthesis, the process by which vines convert light into energy to grow and produce grapes.

Air Circulation: 

Helps to keep the foliage and grapes dry, reducing the risk of fungal diseases which can devastate a vineyard.

Yield: 

The amount of grapes produced can vary significantly depending on the training method. Careful training can help balance vine vigor with fruit production, leading to higher quality grapes.

Harvest: 

Some training systems are more suited to mechanical harvesting, while others require manual picking. The choice of system can thus influence labor costs and efficiency.

Did you enjoy this Introduction to Vines? Have any questions about this article? Comment below or message us via LinkedIn or Instagram! Also, if you’re curious about learning more, check out this article.

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