Illuminating The Common Grape Vine (Vitis vinifera)

vitis vinifera

Readers following this blog most likely know about wine because they are wine lovers. They are interested in the beverage of which the English novelist and poet, Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) said “The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams”.

Naturally, we, at Son Alegre, are interested in the beverage, the sunbeams, the environment and, of course, in the plant that grows the grapes which makes our wines, the vine. Allow us to tell you everything you always wanted to know about the common grape vine (as quoted from Wikipedia).

Vitis vinifera (common grape vine) is a species of Vitis, native to the Mediterranean region, central Europe, and southwestern Asia, from Morocco and Portugal north to southern Germany and east to northern Iran. There are currently between 5,000 and 10,000 varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes though only a few are of commercial significance for wine and table grape production.

It is a liana growing to 35 yards tall, with flaky bark. The leaves are alternate, palmately lobed, 5–20 cm long and broad. The fruit is a berry, known as a grape; in the wild species it is 6 mm diameter and ripens dark purple to blackish with a pale wax bloom; in cultivated plants it is usually much larger, up to 3 cm long, and can be green, red, or purple (black). The species typically occurs in humid forests and streamsides.

The wild grape is often classified as V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris (in some classifications considered Vitis sylvestris), with V. vinifera subsp. vinifera restricted to cultivated forms. Domesticated vines have hermaphrodite flowers, but subsp. sylvestris is dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants) and pollination is required for fruit to develop.

The grape is eaten fresh, processed to make wine, or dried to produce raisins. Cultivars of Vitis vinifera form the basis of the majority of wines produced around the world. All of the familiar wine varieties belong to Vitis vinifera, which is cultivated on every continent except for Antarctica, and in all the major wine regions of the world.

vinya son alegre

But there is more to this plant than that, much more. Allow us to quote from EOL, the Encyclopedia of Life.

Wild V. vinifera is one of the oldest fruit crops in the Old World. Seeds have been found at a late Neolithic site (4500 BCE) in Cyprus, at early Bronze Age sites at Jericho (around 3200 BCE), and at other ancient sites in the Levant. Viticulture, including wine production, occurred in Egypt at least as early as 2400 BCE, as recorded in the hieroglyphics of the time. It is uncertain where this grape was first domesticated – possibly in Armenia or along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. The Romans brought the crop to temperate European countries, including Britain. It was brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492; Portuguese and Spanish explorers brought it to North and South America. It was later brought to the Atlantic Coast of North America by British, French, and Dutch settlers (some hybridization likely occurred between this species and the North American natives V. rotundifolia [Muscadine Grape] and V. labrusca).

Merlot

There are many other aspects to consider when it comes to understanding the vine plant, for example some medicinal applications (as quoted from Health from Nature).

Grape Vine has astringent, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and anti-sclerotic properties. Seeds and leaves are astringent. Leaves have been used in traditional medicine to stop hemorrhages and minor bleeding. Ripe fruit can influence the kidneys, promoting urine flow. Along with a nourishing diet, grapes can greatly help people suffering from anemia and exhaustion. Grapes are also useful in cases of small-pox, neuralgia and insomnia.

autumn leaves

There would be so much more to say about the vine plant, one could almost write a book about it. Maybe one day we will. In the meantime we are just busy tending to our land, our plants and our grapes because we know that you are mainly interested in what it is all about really, the wine. In vino veritas (In wine [there is the] truth).

Cheers.

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