Only Three Types of Wine in the World
In addition to the Atlantic Ocean, there exists a great divide between Europe and the U.S. when it comes to wine. My travels around Europe over these many years convinced me that Europeans enjoy drinking wine much more than we do. This is obvious in restaurants where Europeans take pleasure leafing through a wine list, while most Americans look at those lists the way they do a long letter from the IRS.
Even though Americans drink wine now more than ever before, the culture here is to consider wine some intimidating blood sport filled with pretentiousness, arrogance, and condescension. Yes, this is not found everywhere, but enough wine snobs, self-centered wine stewards, and greedy restaurateurs – outrageous price markups that make wine seem only affordable for the rich – do their best to make the entire experience unpalatable. Perhaps this is why so many diners order the tried and true wine brand that they are sure will be just fine if not unspectacular, passing on the many better values on the list.
Here is a hint. There are only three types of wine in the world. First, there are wines that are well made. The grapes are properly cultivated and harvested, and the wine is correctly fermented, aged, bottled, and handled before arriving at your table.
Second, there are the wines that are poorly made. The vineyard is poorly managed with the grapes harvested at the wrong time, and the wine is flawed from errors in fermentation, aging, storage, bottling, or handling.
The third type of wine made in the world is the one only you can identify. These are wines that are well made that you like. Wine drinking is as simple as that. As a poorly made wine usually tastes or smells bad, picking it out requires only a little practice. So, the next time you drink some wine, act like a European. If you like it, enjoy it!
Barry P. Chaiken, Proprietor
As with any agricultural venture, proper planning is the first step to a successful vineyard. Before establishing a new vineyard, potential problems should be considered and steps taken to avoid falling victim to costly and long lasting mistakes.
One commonly asked question is “should I use grafted plants or own-rooted plants”? There is no simple answer. Each site and vineyard has unique situations that need to be well thought out before an answer can be given.
What is the difference between an own-rooted and grafted vine? An own-rooted plant is simply taking a cutting from one plant and rooting it to make another genetically identical plant. Therefore, if the top portion of the plant dies, and the plant sprouts from the roots, the same type of plant will reemerge.
A grafted plant is made up of two plants. It is essentially joining a root portion (rootstock) with the budwood (scion) from another plant. If the scion dies and the plant re-grows from the roots, the reemerging vine will be the undesirable rootstock rather than the scion (usually a variety). Before selecting an own-rooted or grafted plant there are several factors to consider.
First, a vineyard should have welldrained, deep soils with a minimum of 2 feet to 3 feet of soil depth before hitting water, rock, or a hardpan. A sandy soil will be more prone to nematodes and dry out quicker than a tight clay soil. Clay soils can be too wet, not allowing water to drain and starving the roots of oxygen.
Why would an own-rooted plant be a better option to plant in a vineyard? Both types of plants have advantages and disadvantages.
Because less time and labor is involved in growing an own-rooted plant, initial plant costs are much lower. Nurseries can produce own-rooted plants in the same year that they were started; whereas, grafted plants may be at the nursery for one or two years.
In areas where freeze damage is likely, an own-rooted plant is the best choice. Avoiding the cost of replacing grafted plants or re-budding the surviving rootstocks can be eliminated. Own-rooted vineyards can be re-established sooner by using root suckers to begin new plants.
Own-rooted plants have a tendency to be less vigorous than grafted plants. If the vineyard site is very fertile with ideal soil conditions, an own-rooted plant might be the best choice to avoid too much vigor. However, if the vineyard is less than ideal or has potential soil problems such as high pH or salinity levels, a rootstock can be used to compensate for certain site limitations.
Rootstocks were first used in European vineyards in the late 1800s to combat devastating phylloxera outbreaks. The vineyards began to use phylloxera resistant grape plants as rootstocks. These plants were native to North America, where the pest was naturally occurring. Today, rootstocks can be helpful in vineyards that have limiting factors. Rootstocks can be used to improve vigor, increase production, and help sustain the health or survival of the vineyard. Careful consideration should be given to match the rootstock characteristics with the site limitations, therefore taking full advantage of the rootstock.
Rootstocks commonly used are Vitis species selected from native areas or hybrids that use native species to form new rootstocks. When two species are crossed, they normally exhibit characteristics of both species. Some of the most common are Vitis rupestris, V. riparia, V. berlandieri, V. x champinii, and V. vinifera. An understanding of the native environment of these species can give clues to their potential adaptation to other areas.
Source and Further Reading: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service
Top photo of vines courtesy of Michael Evans.