Perspectives on wine are starting to change. Homemade wine is fast becoming a new way of engaging with this ever-popular drink…but how do you get started?
Wine is a complex craft that relies on several factors for success. The quality of the soil is among the best known necessities (also known as terroir). The type of grape and how well it’s cultivated is another important detail. Learning how to grow wine grapes may sound intimidating, but this process is similar to any other kind of gardening.
We’ll break down how to grow wine grapes from top to bottom so you can start crafting your very own homemade wine.
Where Will You Plant Your Wine Grapes?
You won’t have an easy time growing wine grapes unless you have enough room and sunlight. The location of your wine grapes should be your first order of business.
While niches like vertical farming are becoming more popular these days, wine grapes still need a lot of room to flourish. The first part you should consider when planting your wine grapes are:
Check Your Soil Quality
While each wine grape will have slightly different needs in terms of soil quality, there are a few similarities between varietals. Your soil needs to be of the sandy loam variety and hover around 7 pH.
Make sure your garden is free of weeds and that your fertilizer has plenty of organic materials. Specialized composts made for wine grapes should be your go-to. Just like us, plants need to eat healthy!
Create a Spacious Environment
Your wine grapes should be planted around eight feet apart. This gives you enough room to walk through and inspect your grapes without bumping into anything.
Define your plot with wooden partitions so you’re not confused where one grapevine ends and the other one begins.
Choose a Good Time to Plant Your Grapes
Any farmer worth their salt will tell you that timing is everything. Wine grapes are quite sensitive to changes in the climate, so choose the proper season and month before planting.
Plant your grapes before the first winter to give them time to establish deep roots. Make sure not to wait after your delivery, either! The sooner you plant, the healthier your wine grapes will be. Snip off any damaged roots you find, then give your vines a nice soak before planting them.
Don’t Forget Your Trellis System
Notice how wine grapes usually have a support system? These wooden beams are designed to keep fruit off the ground and expose them more consistently to the sun.
You Might Want Grow Tubes
Worried about birds or deer chewing up your grapes? Grow tubes will protect your investment without depriving your grapes of air, sunlight, and tending.
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Pick a Compatible Grape for Your Environment
Not just any wine grape will do! Each wine grape has its own unique flavors and terroir needs. The more compatible your environment, the better your wine will taste.
Live in a Cold Environment? Avoid Pinot Noir and Merlot
Are you a big fan of red wines? Sadly, if you live in a cold environment prone to a lot of snow, you need to avoid pinot noir and merlot.
These European varieties are notoriously finicky and are prone to withering at the slightest dip in temperature. The best wine grapes for cold environments are:
- Vidal Blanc
Live in a Hot Environment? Avoid Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling
Warm environments aren’t automatically the best for wine grapes. Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling tend to struggle in these climates, but you’re not out of luck!
The best grapes for warm, sunny weather include:
Take Good Care of Your Vines
Your wine grapes are highly sensitive and take time to grow. Even the fastest growing wine grape will take around three years to bear fruit worth creating into wine.
Are you ready for the waiting game? Tending to your vines involves pruning the more withered and undeveloped shoots to help the stronger ones grow. We recommend trimming your shoots once they reach between eight to twelve inches. Tying your strong shoots to each trunk will help it curl and grow strong over time.
Learning how to trim, tie, and watch your shoots will take months of practice. Before you know it, you and your vines will understand each other on a deeper level.
Yield Fruit With Your Amazing Grape Harvest
You’ll know your grapes are ready to harvest by their rich color, round shape, and heavy weight. The age of your vineyard will play a big part in how much wine you’re able to make.
For example, a three year-old vineyard will produce up to ten pounds of grapes. Older vines will produce as much as thirty to forty pounds of grapes! On average, expect to make ten to twelve bottles of wine with an older vineyard. A younger vineyard might reach five to seven bottles.
While wine drink size varies, the standard drink amount is one-fifth of the bottle.
Learning how to grow grapes is a very time-consuming process. While you can grow tomatoes in just a few months, wine grapes take years to mature properly.
Expect your new wine garden to take around three years to bear fruit. Make sure you have plenty of room to plant and organize your wine grapes so you can tend to them regularly. Establishing a trellis system and grow tube will protect your grapes without depriving them of what they need.
The type of climate and soil you have will affect which grape you choose. Warm climates do better with Zinfandels and Shiraz, while a colder environment should try a Marquette or Riesling.
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