Rehabilitating 40 year old vines?

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Ellvee

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Hello everyone! Brand new member here.

My husband and I recently purchased the old homestead that his grandparents built, and over the past few years have been renovating the house and 15+ acres, putting in gardens and fruit trees, etc.

This summer whilst putting in some new blueberry bushes, I found a grapevine that I can only assume his grandparents planted. It's in an extremely overgrown area, and it is everywhere. Up trees and bushes, over and around everything else. It is completely entwined in an area of probably 100'x100'. And it produces the biggest, most delicious dark purple grapes I've ever had. They're seeded, and sweet, possibly concord? I have picked almost a bushel, and I haven't even made a dent in the crop. ((Anyone want some grape juice, lol?))

My question is this--

We want to rehabilitate these vine(s), but I know pretty much nothing about grape growing. I am fairly experienced with lots of other fruits and veggies and have a huge garden, but from what very little I know of grapes, they're really not like anything else. Do I cut them back to the bottom few feet? Try to salvage what vines I can? Help! We're planning on removing all of the bushes/trees in the area, so a lot of the growth is going to be damaged/ripped out anyway. I really want to preserve and nurture these vines, so any tips would be appreciated! Things like trimming, fertilizing, training, etc.

If it helps, we are in Genesee County, New York, zone 5b. I'm attaching a picture of my harvest so far and one of the vines in the wild.
 

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wildhair

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They look like wild grape vines to me. Small clusters & lots of vine. I just picked a batch of them (20+ #). They are called Fox grapes or Frost grapes or Ditch grapes - depending on where you live.

I don't know if you can cultivate them or tame them or civilize them - but they make a damn fine wine as they are - rich, earthy, full bodied. We have them all over the place in rural WI.
I do know there are male & female vines, so take note not to chop down the females. They are tough to kill once established.
 

srcorndog

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They look like wild grape vines to me. Small clusters & lots of vine. I just picked a batch of them (20+ #). They are called Fox grapes or Frost grapes or Ditch grapes - depending on where you live.

I don't know if you can cultivate them or tame them or civilize them - but they make a damn fine wine as they are - rich, earthy, full bodied. We have them all over the place in rural WI.
I do know there are male & female vines, so take note not to chop down the females. They are tough to kill once established.
My fox grapes are very small bunches but my wild muscadines look exactly like the pictures
 

JustJoe

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It's hard to tell looking at a basket of grapes but it looks like they are too large for the wild grape (fox grape river grape, frost grape, etc.) My guess is concord. It would help to have a picture that shows something to give a better idea of the size and a picture of a few leaves would help.
 

Rice_Guy

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first of all welcome to WineMaking Talk
* as a gardener you have seen lots of crops that fruit on second year wood. Grapes fall into this group therefore if you work on it and want fruit you need to maintain enough second year to get a crop. Can you identify the stems which grew in the 2021 summer? ,,,, lighter color/ greenish/ only one set of buds-not lots of branching.
* grapes are a weed so you could do severe pruning back to a few feet without killing the plant, but you would probably lose next years crop. Pruning is typical in early spring before bud break. Commercial (20 acre) folks will start with snow on the ground, I wait till it is comfortable out. ,,, if you have 100 feet of vine I would break the rule and start selecting arms of the plant to keep now, it will make the work easier in the spring.
* for crops pruning is done with a look at where you want the plant next year. This means all cuts are thinking if I cut here it will produce a good two year wood with fruit in two years.
* there are several styles of vineyard. With one plant something more creative as using it as a cover on a pergola might be appropriate. For those hanging vines on wires there are plants which tend to grow up/ fruit high and ones which tend to fruit low (I don’t like picking grapes on my knees) Any way, with one plant you could be non traditional as a tree like post.
* last of all I would take half to two thirds of the 100 feet off which starts new wood for 2022, and actually get the plant where I wanted it over a two year period.
 

cenk57

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They look way to big to be fox or frost grapes. But pics can sometimes be deceiving. You are a little far north for muscadines, but maybe. To answer your question, yes, you can rehabilitate them. I would suggest first taking several cuttings and rooting it early next spring. It is extremely simple. Just google "propagating grape vines by cutting". In a nut shell, you cut an 8" or so in length, pencil diameter piece off the grapevine in early spring while still dormant. Then stick the cutting in potting soil and keep moist. It should produce roots and you can plant the cutting(s) in a trellis setting somewhere. At the same time you take your cuttings, you can prune back the vine and shape to your liking. Grapes are a weed, I never seen one die from over pruning. Good luck! Oh, and I wouldn't be to concerned about the variety if it tastes good to you!
 
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wildhair

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My fox grapes are very small bunches but my wild muscadines look exactly like the pictures
We don't have muscadines in WI - not sure they have them in NY, either. Muscadines are a SE grape, from what I've read.
"Vitis rotundifolia, or muscadine,[1] is a grapevine species native to the southeastern and south-central United States.[2] The growth range extends from Florida to New Jersey coast, and west to eastern Texas and Oklahoma."


And our wild grapes do get some nice bunches, and decent size to the grapes - those most are smaller and more "black" than the ones pictured. This was a really nice find for me.
 

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winemaker81

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Check local colleges to see if there is a grape program. GCC might be too small, but Cornell has one. Not sure about RU, RIT, or SU. Maybe SUNY Buffalo? You may be able to take leaves and grapes in for ID.

You're not far from the Geneva research station, so it's entirely possible you have some sort of hybrid. @cenk57's idea of rooting some cuttings could prove to be useful.
 

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