Vitis vinifera L. - Grape-vine

Taxonomic position:

Family: Vitaceae Juss., genus: Vitis L., species: Vitis vinifera L. (Cherepanov, 1995).


V. vinifera var. sativa Beck.; V. byzantina, V. deliciosa, V. antiquorum, V. allemanica Andrasovs.; V. vinifera ssp. sativa Beg.

Biology and morphology:

2n=38, 57, 76. Grape-vine is a perennial plant. It is a deciduous woody vine (30-40 m tall) with long (3-5 cm), thin annual shoots and a powerful root system that penetrates the soil to a depth of 7 m or more. Grape-vine's trunk is coarse and barbate. Its crust peels off in strips. Grape-vine leaves are alternate, from full, rounded or angular to very much divided into lobes. They may be glabrous or pubescent. Grape-vine plants cling to their supports with tendrils. Grape-vine flowers are very fragrant and polygamous: they are functionally female (with short, distant and bent sterile stamens) or bisexual. Staminate flowers and carpellary flowers are only typical of some grape-vine varieties. The corolla is formed by 5 accrete petals and looks like a hood, which is shed when the flower opens. Grape-vine inflorescence is paniculate. It resides on a stalk with a tendril. The tendril develops on the stalk node opposite the leaf. It is a modified inflorescence of the sympodial type. Normal inflorescences usually develop on lower stalk nodes of the shoot, while tendrils are formed on higher nodes. Grape-vine fruits are berries with very juicy, dense or viscous pulp inside. In some varieties, their taste may be quite different, ranging from very sweet to sour. Grape-vine berries are of different sizes, shapes and colors (from yellow to almost black) and form bunches or clusters. Grape-vine is a cross-pollinating plant (wind- and insect-pollinated). It may be also self-pollinating, sometimes cleistogamous. Unlike all wild growing grape-vine varieties, modern cultivated grape-vine cultivars have mostly bisexual flowers. Wild grape-vine varieties are conditionally unisexual, since their flowers are unilaterally reduced. Female flowers invariably have sterile stamens or their rudiments; these flowers are functionally female, since their pistils are normal. Stamens develop very well on male flowers. These stamens produce fertile pollen, while these flowers' pistils are rudimentary. Cultivated grape-vine has seedless varieties (sultanas). Seedless berries are formed when seed-buds fail to develop due to degeneration of the ovule or when the embryo ceases to grow at the very beginning of its development. Grape-vine is prone to mutations. Its Muscat varieties all originated as mutations. Berries with cultivated grape-vine varieties increased in size gradually as a result of stage-by-stage mutations. Grape-vine is exceptionally polymorphous.


Grape-vine is a heat-loving plant, but it is also quite cold-resistant (able to survive frosts of -18°C). It succumbs to excessive moisture. 300-500 mm of annual rainfall are optimal for grape-vine. It thrives in light fertile soils. Its lifespan is 50-300 years. Scion-rooted plants bear fruit for 60-80 years; understock bears fruit for 30-40 years. Grape-vine is genetically flexible. Double, triple and compound hybrids have been observed. Heterosis effect is usually manifest in the first generation. Remote and closely related hybridization techniques are used. Polyploidy has allowed researchers to breed tetraploid varieties with a highly fertile pollen, bigger berries and bunches and higher seed yields. Grape-vine tends to apomixis.


Grape-vine cultivation originated in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Levant and in the other ancient centers of human culture a few thousand years B.C. In Russia, grape-vine cultivation sprang up independently in several different locations. The first grape-vine cultivation centers were in Central Asia and Armenia. Later grape-vine cultivation began in Georgia. Local varieties derived from the ancestors of V. Vinifera were cultivated in all those locations, while grape-vine was introduced to the Crimea by Greek settlers from the Mediterranean; grape-vine cultivation there never relied on local varieties. The first vineyard in Russia was planted in 1613 in Astrakhan. In the 17th century, Tsar Aleksey (father of Peter the Great) planted a vineyard near Moscow. In the second half of the 17th century, vineyards bore fruit near Kiev, Kharkov and in the Lower Volga Region. Peter the Great supported viticulture and ordered vines from France and Hungary. Upon his decree, grape-vine cultivation began in 1706 on the river Don. At present, grape-vine is cultivated on all inhabited continents. The largest vineyards are found in Spain, Italy and France. North America has the greatest variety of grape-vine species. For a long time, European varieties were unsuccessful there, and it was as late as the second half of the 19th century that viticulture, wine-making and cognac preparation from European grape-vine varieties began to develop rapidly there. (Settlers from Russia played an important part in these processes.) Grape-vine is very common in the former republics of the USSR: Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, the Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In Russia, grape-vine is cultivated in Northern Caucasia, in the Krasnodar Territory, in Central Russia, in the Central Black Earth Belt, in the Non-Chernozem Belt, and even in Siberia. In 2004, 57 cultivars of table grape-vine were approved for cultivation in specific areas of the Russian Federation (Avgustin, Ayvaz, Vostorg, Kardinal, Koroleva, Krasa Severa, Muscat, Senso, Khatmi, etc.); 53 cultivars of industrial-grade grapes were also approved (Aligate, Bianka, Kleret, Merlo, Muskat bely, Pino bely, Pino chiorny, Saperavi, Shardonne, etc.), as were 18 multipurpose cultivars (Galan, Druzhba, Narma, Fioletovy ranny, etc.) and 6 stocks of vine (Andros, Vierul 3, Finist, etc.). The main breeding agencies include the Zonal Research Institute for Horticulture and Viticulture of Northern Caucasia, the Y.I. Potapenko All-Union Research Institute for Viticulture and Wine-Making, the Anapa Zonal Viticulture and Wine-Making Station, the Saratov Experimental Horticulture Station, the I.V. Michurin All-Union Research Institute for Genetics and Breeding of Fruit Plants, the Daghestan Experimental Breeding Station of All-Union Research Institute for Viticulture and Vegetable-Growing, and the K.A. Timiryazev Moscow Agricultural Academy.

Economic value:

Grape-vine is a valuable source of food. It is used in wine-making, medicine and perfumery. Grape-vine berries contain 10-33% sugars, 0.5-1.4% organic acids, 0.3-0.5% mineral substances, 0.3-1.0% pectic substances, C vitamins, B vitamins and carotin. Grape juice contains 16.1-20.8% sugars (6.2-8.8% glucose; 5.7-9.3% fructose). Its acid content is 0.9-1.2% (tartaric acid). Economic classification of grape-vine varieties includes table varieties, wine-making and champagne-making varieties, cognac varieties, varieties crushed for their juice and food concentrates, varieties dried to produce raisins and used for preserves, and stock varieties. Grape-vine is propagated by segments or canes, cuttings, and grafts. For breeding purposes, seeds are used as well. Plots for future vineyards should be even. Slopes of over 10° should be terraced. Planting is preceded by trenching to a depth of at least 60 cm. Organic (40,000-60,000 kg per hectare) and mineral (180-200 kg of phosphate fertilizer per hectare) fertilizers are applied as well. Grape-vine is planted with vine-planting machines. The distance between rows should be 1.5-3.5 m. The distance between plants in a row should be 1-3 m. Canes and cuttings are planted at depths of 50-70 cm. Early spring is the best planting time. In areas without severe winters where the soil does not freeze through, grape-vine can be planted in autumn or winter. After planting, the soil should be kept loose. In the second half of the summer, the shoots are pinched in order to accelerate wood maturing. In dry weather, vineyards should be watered. In areas of sheltered viticulture, grape-vine bushes are covered with soil before the first frosts. This is done while deeply plowing row-spacings. In the 2nd or 3rd year of the plants' lives, trellises are erected. Perennial and annually growing fruit-bearing shoots are tied to them. Grape-vine bush formation depends on cultivars' features and the conditions of their cultivation. The soil of fruit-bearing vineyards is annually loosened, fertilized and watered. Grapes are picked by hand. On average, grape-vine yields 5,000-6,000 kg of berries per hectare. At the moment, attempts are being made to apply the grape-picking combined harvester. Plants of the Vitis L. genus are often used as ornamental ones.


Cherepanov, S.K. 1995. Vascular Plants of Russia and Neighboring Countries. St. Petersburg, p. 958
Negrul, A.M. 1959. Viticulture and Fundamentals of Ampelography and breeding. 3rd edition. Moscow.
Serpukhovitina, K.A., Morozova, G.S. 1984. Industrial Viticulture. Moscow.
State Register Breeding Achievements Approved for Practical Application. 2004. Moscow, pp. 135-137.
Suvorov, V.V. 1961. Botany. Leningrad, p. 339
Zhukovsky, P.M. 1964. Cultivated Plants and Their Congeners. Leningrad, pp. 559-574.

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