Growing Wine Grapes At Home

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In the last few years the local/homemade movement in the United States has exploded. More and more consumers wish to feel connected to the products they use, and what better way to do that than to make it yourself? This has contributed to the growing popularity of home winemaking, and for anyone who has enough space for a real garden, growing wine grapes is the next logical step.

Where to plant

In order to grow high quality wine grapes, it will have to be the right sort of space. They should be grown on a slope in order to prevent the water from pooling around their roots. This can either drown the plant or just prevent it from producing grapes at all.

The alcohol in wine begins its life in the grapes as sugar, and that sugar is a product of photosynthesis, so the more sunlight they get, the more potent the final product will be. For this reason it is usually best to plant on a slope that faces southeast or southwest. This will allow the leaves of your vines to soak up as much sun as possible. Wine grapes won't benefit from frost, so plant them toward the top of the slope where it is less likely to hit them.

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The ideal soil

In general, smaller grapes are preferred for winemaking, since the color and flavor lay primarily in this skins. The larger the grapes, the more juicy flesh; the more flesh, the less flavor. In order to encourage your vines to grow small grapes, they should be planted in dry, poor soil. The lack of nutrients will limit their growth and help them produce excellent wine grapes.

Choosing the right grapes

The grapes you grow should depend on both the wines you enjoy drinking and the region you'll be growing in. White wines are slightly more difficult to make than reds, and beginning wine makers should probably stick with concentrates during the learning process, but once you've decided to devote a growing season to this experiment, why shy away from a challenge?

There are a ton of different grape varieties that can be grown for wine, but they all basically fall into two categories: native American grapes or the traditional European vitis vinifera. The vinifera grapes have been carefully cultivated in Europe for centuries, and they're best suited to the more mild climates of the Mediterranean than most regions of the US, but many wineries have found success with crosses between the two.

If you're unsure about what types of grapes will be best suited to your area, do a little research into the vineyards around you to see where they have had the most success. Here in Idaho where I live, we have great success growing Rieslings, but your local climate and geology will determine the best options for you.

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Kayla Stevens is a wine lover and enthusiastic, amateur home wine maker. She has recently decided to embark on an experimental vineyard on her parents' land, since her apartment complex has not been kind enough to offer her the space she needs. She currently writes for Midwest Supplies, which is where she gets the wine making equipment she needs to keep up her favorite hobby.

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August 2, 2013  •  10:54 PM
Good article, Kayla. I live in southeastern Alberta, and planted 20 Valiant grapevines 5 years ago. I didn't know to plant them on a slope, but they seem to be doing ok. I made another rookie mistake by picking the grapes the first year. Not supposed to do this until the 3rd, or preferably the 4th,but the grapes are coming along very well this year. The wine that I made from the first year grapes is very dry and not as flavourful as the nose suggests. This year,I think I will make a ros' or blend it with honey.
January 1, 2014  •  03:51 PM
Great article I live in West Georgia elevation 1475. This was my first year of harvest little over 300 gallons of wine I have put to sleep for a year. I grow Chambourcin, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Cayuga White and Noiret. In the south we fear Pierce disease but being a non typical grower I except the challenge.
I'm making sweet to dry and plan to try a chocolate raspberry port with my Noiret I only have 35 gallons. Looking for a great recipe for my port not fortified.