The plant of Grapes
Vitis vinifera, commonly known as European vine or, more properly, Eurasian vine, is a liana of the Vitacee family, formerly called Ampelidacee: from which usually come grapes and wine, a very important and profitable branch of the fruit and vegetable sector.
The great number of varieties of vines are usually divided in two subgenus: - Muscadinia vine; - Euvitis vine.
The different species of vines are grouped according to the area of origin: American vines, Eastern-Asian vines and Eurasian vines (which include only one species, vitis vinifera). Vitis vinfera includes two subgenus, the V. vinifera sylvestris (which includes the wild vines from Central and Southern Europe, Western Asia and Norther Africa) and the V. vinifera sativa (which includes the cultivated vines). Cultivated vines can be divided into Eastern vines ( Caspian vines) and Mediterranean vines (Pontic and Western vines).
As to roots according to the fact that the plant derives from seeds or from cutting, there are:
- Taproots, that is those grown from seeds, from which come the smaller and second order roots;
- Adventitious roots, that is those grown from a cutting, usually next to a node; they are grouped, develop homogenously and from them come the second order roots.
The stem of vines is twisted and wrapped by a flaky rhytidome. The stem usually grows vertically, but it can also have another inclination according to the method of cultivation. Ramifications are called vine leafs when they are herbaceous, vine stock, when they are ligneous (pruning after lopping). If they derive from one-year-old branches they are called in Italian “cacchi”, while they are called “polloni” if they derive from old wood. Vine stocks are formed by several nodes and internodes of different length. Leaves are simple, distichous and alternate. They have petioles of different length and a palmately-lobed lamina with five principal nervatures that can create as many separate lobes starting from coves called sinus (one, three of five lobed leaves) Leaves are asymmetric and heterophyllous (in other words there are different types of leaves on the same vine stock).
The leaf can be covered by hair. Vine has only buds that originate from the primary meristem and can be ready buds, hibernating or normal and latent buds. Tendrils are inconstant supports: herbaceous in summer, but they lignify at the end of the vegetative cycle. Flowers, instead, are not single, but they are assembled to form an inflorescence, called compound cluster or better compound raceme or panicle attached on the vine stock opposed to the leaf. The inflorescence is formed by a main axis (rachis) on which there are pedicles, the last of which is called petiole and bears the flower.
The number of flowers per cluster is very variable (up to 100). Flowers are hermaphrodyte, with calyx of five sepals and corolla of five petals; there are also five stamens; the ovary is bicarpellary and contains four ovules. According to the vitality of the male and female organs, on the vine there can be hermaphrodite, staminiferous and pistilliferous flowers. Apart from this main types of flowers, there can be other intermediate types. Cluster might be of different shape according to the variety. The fruit of vine is a berry (acinus), commonly called GRAPE, formed by an epicarp or skin, by the mesocarp or flesh (soft and juicy tissue) and by the endocarp (a membraneous tissue where there are seeds or vine seeds). On the peduncle there are the clusters, with the branches of the cluster, the grape stalk or stalk. The shape, the size, the colour and the taste differ according to the variety. The fruit of vine, the grape, is a seasonal product with a limited storage capacity as a fresh product, as the berries have a juicy flesh.
Grape can be consumed fresh or can be processed for the production of wine, which represent undoubtedly the most important sectors; furthermore, from grape we can obtain:
- clear juice
- natural syrups that can be added to fruit salads;
- products preserved in alcohol;
Leaves in decotion are used as astringent.
The Vitis genus includes many species:
- Vitis vinifera L., also called European vine, domesticated in its form sativa, cultivated since time immemorial in Europe, in the Middle East and in the Caucasian region.
Other species, mainly wild, of American origins are:
- Vitis labrusca, the American vine (in English fox grapeas grape has a “wild” or “foxy” flavour, not much appreciated in Europe.
- Vitis riparia;
- Vitis rupestris;
- Vitis berlandieri (or vitis cinerea).
These species of vine, not much vulnerable to the phylloxera, a parasite that feeds of the roots of the European vines, are mainly used as rootstock, in other words as a shrub on which rootings of vines are grafted, or as a crossbreed with some varieties of Vitis vinifera for the production of grape.
The main varieties of vines for table grapes , instead are:
- Alphonse Lavaleé discovered in France in the second half of the Nineteenth century by crossbreeding Bellino and Lady Downes Seedling; it is a great table vine widespread in many countries.
- Baresana this variety, whose origins are immemorial and that probably comes from the East, has several synonim names including Turchesca, Turkish Grape, Grape from Bisceglie, White Tokay, Emperor and Sacred Grape.
- Cardinal: obtained in 1939 by E. Suyder and F. Harmon in California, from a cross between Flame Tokay and Ribier (A. Lavallée), this variety was introduced in Europe after the WWII; it’s one of the best early red table grapes. When ripe, it must be immediately harvested because it keeps not much on the plant; the berry is large, round, with a non-uniform reddish-violet pruinose skin, a crisp flesh, sweet and palatable with a neutral taste.
- Conegliano Precoce: obtained by the ISV (Istituto Sperimentale per la Viticoltura – Experiment Institut for Vine growing), by crossbreeding Italia with Volta (I.P: 1’5); it is an interesting vine for its earliness and for the beautiful clusters; it ripes in about 90-95 days. It is well resistant to cryptogams and to rot; it keeps well and is resistant during transports; berries are medium, weight on average 5.5 gr, are round or sub-round, the skin is pruinose, black-intense violet, the flesh is juicy, sweet, palatable and slightly flavoured.
- Conegliano 218: obtained by the ISV by crossbreeding Italia with Volta (I.P. 105); it is very similar to its “brother” Conegliano Precoce; it is appreciated for its earliness and for the beautiful clusters; the berries are medium, weight on average 6.5 gr, are round or sub-round, the skin is pruinose and black-intense violet. The flesh is juicy and hard, sweet, palatable and slightly flavoured.
- Isabella: hybrid vine derived by crossbreeding Vitis vinifera with Vitis Lambrusca; vine making is prohibited, both because of laws in force, and because a wine with a high percentage of methyl alcohol can be obtained; it is suitable to be planted next to houses in order to form a grape arbour, as no particular treatment is requested; people are rediscovering it as an “old vine” table grape; berries are small and ovoid, with a thick black-violet skin, hard and slightly pruinose, with a dark red hard and juicy flesh with the typical foxy taste (of strawberries).
- Italia: vine obtained by Prof. Pirovano in 1911 by crossbreeding the species Bicane with Moscato d’Ambrogio. It is one of the major table vines worldwide. In France it is called “Ideal”.
- Matilde: obtained by the Istituto Sperimentale di Frutticoltura (Experiment Institute for Fruit Growing) in Rome by P.Manzo, crossbreeding Italia with Cardinal; excellent vine for its earliness and for the appearance of the berries and clusters. It keeps very well on the plant and during transports; berries are large or very large (7gr), ovoid, with a yellow quite thin skin, a hard flesh quite crisp and juicy, slightly flavoured.
- Michele Palieri: obtained by M. Palieri in Velletri (Rome, Italy), by crossbreeding the Alphanse Lavallée with the Red Malaga; it keeps well and is resistant during transports; it has a great success on the market for the qualitative characteristics of the cluster as well as for its good appearance; berries are large, ovoid, with a black-violet quite thick skin, hard and pruinose, and a crisp, hard and juicy flesh that is also sweet.
- Moscato d'Adda: obtained in Vaprio d’Adda in 1897 by Luigi Pirovano from grapeseeds of Moscato d’Amburgo; this cultivar can be considered an improvement of the Moscato d’Amburgo variety as it has better trading characteristics; it keeps well both during transports and on the plant and in drying rooms; berries are medium-large, subspherical, with a black –violet, very pruinose and thick skin; the flesh is soft, sweet, juicy and has a palatable flavour of muscat.
- Moscato d'Amburgo: coming from England, where this cultuvar is called “Black of Alessandria”, it was cultivated in greenhouses; it has firstly spread in France and later in many wine-producing countries; the flavour is very good but its trading characteristics are not completely satisfying; berries are medium-large, slightly ellipsoidal, with a very pruinose, black-intense violet, very thin but resistant skin; the flesh is quite soft, sweet, juicy , with a palatable flavour of muscat.
- Moscato di Terracina: is known as “Moscato di Maccarese”, after the name of the major area of cultivation, but it seems that it came from the area of Terracina (Latina); the best characteristics are performed in the typical areas of production. Sometimes, clusters are too dense and have little resistance to cryptogam attacks and to transports; vine suitable both for fresh consumption and for wine making. From this variety special wine can be produced; berries are medium, spherical and have a thick skin even though not very resistant, it is pruinose and gold-yellow or amber coloured, the pulp is flesh and juicy, sweet and with an intense flavour of muscat.
- Noah: it is an hybrid obtained by crossbreeding Vitis Lambrusca with Vitis riparia; wine making is forbidden for the same reasons of the hybrid Isabella; it is suitable to be planted next to houses in order to form a grape arbour, as no particular treatment is requested; berries are small, ovoid, with a thick and pruinose skin, yellow-green, the flesh is hard and juicy with a typical foxy flavour (of strawberries).
- Pearl of Csaba: created in 1904 by the Hungarian viticulturalist M. Stark, it is of uncertain origins; it is good for its taste and for its earliness qualities, but it is unsuitable to transports and it is not resistant on the plant, because it is often prey of birds and bees; berries are medium-small, spherical, the skin is pruinose and quite thick, light-yellow and a juicy flesh, sweet with a clear flavour of muscat.
- Pizzutello Bianco: is known in Italy with many synonymous names such as Pizzutello of Tivoli, Cornetta, Damasco, etc; it seems that it is of Arab origins, may be Syrian, introduced in Europe with the Arab invasions; it has great qualities and is very resistant on the plant; it keeps well and has a great resistance to transports; berries are medium-large, typically elongated, crescent and pear-shaped ; the skin is slightly pruinose, quite thin but resistant, yellow-green of gold-yellow, the flesh is crisp, with a simple flavour, sweet and very palatable.
- Regina Bianca: white grape vine with very old origins, probably from Eastern originis (Syria), it is cultivated in all the Mediterraneand basin and beyond. In Italy it is known with many synonims, such as Pergolona, Regina di Firenze, Menavacca, Inzolia Imperiale, Dattero di Negroponte; abroad it is knownwith different names: Dattier de Beyrouth in France, Rasaki in the Greek Islands, Afuz-Ali in Bulgary, Aleppo in Romania, Waltam Cross in Australia and in South Africa; its taste is great and has great storage and transport characteristics; it is one of the most widespread vines in the world; berries are large or very large, ellipsoidal or ellipsoidal elongated, with a gold-yellow, quite thick and pruinose skin, the pulp is fleshy or crisp, sweet and with a simple flavour.
- Queen of the Vineyards: known also as Mathiasz 140, created in 1916 by the Hungarian G. Mathiasz crossbreeding Regina Elisabetta with Pearl of Csaba; it is an early variety with good quality characteristics, to such an extent that it is among the most cultivated vines in Italy; it keeps quite well on the plant and is quite resistant to transports; berries are large or very large, ellipsoidal with a gold-yellow, quite thick and pruinose skin, the pulp is fleshy or crisp, sweet with a very palatable flavour of muscat.
- S. Anna di Lipsia: it is a selection from an old variety (Luglienga), that was widespread almost everywhere; it is an early variety with a good flavour, but it is unsuitable to transports and it keeps not well on the plant, because it is often prey of birds and bees; berries are medium and spherical, the skin is light yellow or greenish, thin and pruinose, the flesh is juicy, sweet and platable.
- White Sultanines: cultivar of very old origins, it seems that it comes from Anatolia from where it spread in all the Eastern Mediterranean basin; there are many synonims such as Kechmish in Persian, Coufurogo in Greece, Sultana in Australia and Thompson Seedless in the Usa, a selection spread in California; it is suitable both for fresh consumption and for the production of juices and distillations; it is the best variety to be used for the production of raisin; berries are medium-small, ovoid or ellipsoidal, the flesh is crisp, with a simple flavour, sugary and very palatable, the skin is gold-yellow or light yellow, a little pruinose, thin, but resistant; it is a seedless variety.
- Victoria: variety selected in Romania by Lepadatu Victoria and Condei Gherghe by crossbreeding Cardinal with Afuz Ali; it is a good vine for its earliness, production level, the cluster and berries appearance; it keeps well during transports and on the plant; berries are yellow, large or medium-large (6,6gr), elongate or ellipsoidal, with high resistance to smashing and detachment and a neutral flavour.
- Zibibbo or Muscat of Alexandria: it is of uncertain origins and widespread since a long time along the Mediterranean coasts; it seems that its name comes from Cape Zebib in Tunisia, or from the Arab word zabeb, meaning withered; there are many synonims, "Zibibbo”, “Muscat of Pantelleria”, Salamanna in Tuscany; it is a variety both suitable for fresh consumption and for wine making, from which the popular “passito of Pantelleria” and the Sicilian passito wines are produced; it is very good also if eaten fresh; berries are large or very large, ellipsoidal or subspherical, the skin is thick, pruinose, yellow-greenish of amber-yellow, the flesh is crisp, sweet, with an intense and typical flavour of muscat.
Other table vines: Schiava, Early Panse, Don Mariano, Yellow Muscat, Delizia di Vaprio, Black Pizzutello.
Grapes that are going to be dried must have specific characteristics, in particular they have to be white and they have to bear uniform berries and scattered clusters. Among the varieties with these characteristics, there are: Perlette, Flame Seedless, Maria Pirovano, White Sultanine e Ruby Seedless.
Vine is very adaptable to the clime and, therefore, the area of cultivation is very wide. In the wine-producing environments of the Insular and South of Europe, there is not any problem as to an adequate insolation, as it more than enough in order to complete the biological cycle of vine, a plant typically heliophilous. While solar radiations are able to determine the sugar grade and the period of ripening of grape, the temperature determines all the phenological phases of the plant and can even cause the plant death.
The European vine begins to show damage when the temperature reaches -15 °C in winter and -5°C in case of late frosts. American vines, instead have the damage threshold at a temperature lower of about 5°C, while hybrids direct producers and the hybrids Vitis vinifera x Vitis amurensis respectively at -25°C and at -40°C in case of winter frost. Damage caused by heat excess pertain only to the Southern and Insular vine growing and are influenced also by winds and in particular by a wind called scirocco that causes wrinkling of berries until a complete withering. In areas where there are few precipitation in Spring-Summer, it is necessary to carefully organize the water regime in order to keep in the soil the water fallen in Winter. The plant of vines needs different quantities of water during the different vegetative phases. Low precipitations in winter cause an awakening vegetative state, however, sprouts, after fruit set, usually stop growing and grape, above all grape of the most vigorous vine, does not ripe. Similar damage is caused also by summer drought, as water availability is missing just when the plant is more exigent.
Equally damaging is an excess of precipitations in Summer or in Fall: in the first case, a very watery product forms, with low levels of sugars and a high level of acids, while in the second case attacks by grey mold with damaging consequences on the wine are frequent.
As the rootstock, also the soil is able to determine the quality and quantity of the production of grape, both directly (chemical and physic composition, colour) and indirectly, in respet with some factors, such as position, exposition, etc., that can modify the micro clime of that specific environment.