Making wine Part 4–Planting

Land acquired. Grape variety/varieties selected. Vineyard laid out. Training system, other infrastructure in place. Time to put vines in the ground.

You can grow wine vines from seeds, but almost all wine vines grow from cuttings, living pieces of an existing vine. As home gardeners can attest, you can take a cutting and if you treat it correctly, it will grow into a clone of the original plant.

In the wine world, use of cuttings means a viticulturist knows what they are getting. They can take cuttings from vines they know are suitable for the vineyard they are creating.

Manipulation also can involve grafting. A particular variety can be grafted to a vigorous, resilient rootstock. Phylloxera, 19th century plague of Old World vineyards, was overcome by grafting louse-resistant American rootstock to Europe’s varietals. Texan T.V. Munson pulled this off. In fawning appreciation, France made him a Chevalier du Mérite. Munson was the second American to receive this highest honor. Thomas Edison was the first.

There is other planting and work to be done. Cover crops between rows reduce weeds and enrich the soil. Natural habitats encourage beneficial predators—owl houses to control rodents, for instance. Physical enhancements such as tree breaks. Other crops to move away from a monoculture and diversify the farm. Lavender is an especially pleasant example, and its scent can reflect in the final wine. Olive trees are an historic pairing with vineyards.

These enhancements go beyond good agriculture. Visitors are among the most important “crops” grown in a vineyard-winery. A beautiful setting. A great backstory, especially one involving responsible farming practices and respect for the total environment, are key elements of getting people to come to your operation, spend money on your wine, shop in your gift shop, sign up for your wine club.

Then you wait. It takes three years for new vines to produce useable fruit. At first, you are likely to get good production of mediocre fruit. Five-plus years, your hard work and large outlay of money begins to pay off. Ten-plus years, your vineyard hits its stride.

Stay at it, and your children inherit a going enterprise. Stick at it long enough, and after a century your grandchildren will have a family treasure.

Next week: Growing

Last round: Writer was wildly walking around the cemetery drinking a bottle of wine. Caretaker asked him if he was okay. “No,” the writer said. “I have writer’s block and I’m looking for a plot.”