Purchasing and growing grape vines is one of the most important actions you need to take to get a winery opened. Without your vines in the ground, you won’t have anything to process, bottle (after you choose your wine bottle sizes), and sell to the wine-loving community.
If you’re new to vine growing, you probably have a lot of questions. Growing vines isn’t as simple as planting some seeds and letting the sun and the rain do the work. Don’t fret though, we’re here to help.
From how to plant a grape vine, to pruning grape vines, to the types of wine grape vines you can grow, we have the answers. If you’re at this point in the winery business plan process, you might know what type of wine you want to produce. If not, this article can help you with that too.
Grape Vines for Sale: Buying Grape Vines
When it comes to where to buy grape vines, it depends on your vineyard location. There are local vine retailers spread across the regions where wineries and vineyards are most commonly located. For example, when you look for places that sell grape vines, you find a lot of spots in California and other popular US winery locations.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re completely limited to buying locally. You can buy and ship grape vines, but it is definitely easier to pick them up nearby. If you’re opening a winery in a popular wine region, you’ll be able to find just about anything you need somewhere close by. For this reason, you might want to look into places near the best wineries, to make sure you can find the best vines.
If, however, you’re starting your business in a less wine-populated area, ordering online will be the best option. This also applies if you're looking for really specific vines. You may still be limited, as not every shop will ship to your location. That said, the world of eCommerce distribution opens up your options of what vines you can buy and grow.
How to Plant a Grape Vine
Once you’ve chosen your wine vines and purchased them, the next step is to get them in the ground. You don't want to keep them as bare root plants for long. If you’ve planted anything before, you’ll already be familiar with some of the basic reasons behind vine planting steps.
If not, no worries; we’ll walk you through it. The following list is a guide to everything to consider when planting grape vines:
- Soak your vines, specifically soak the roots, in water before planting, after removing any damaged roots.
- Plant your vines immediately after you get them.
- Plant your vines in early spring to give the roots time to take hold before winter.
- Plant your vines in holes a few inches deeper than the longest roots, with at least eight feet between them.
- Evenly spread the roots out as you plant your vines.
- Avoid using fertilizer when you first plant your vines.
- Set up a trellis system, to give the plants support as they grow.
- Consider using grow tubes to protect the vines when they’re still new and easily killed off by snacking animals like deer or mice.
Once you’ve planted your vines, that’s when the real work begins. Planting may be an adventure, but the care and cultivation of your vines is even more a part of building your winery.
How to Prune Grape Vines
Once your vines are firmly in the ground, you’ll need to master the art of pruning them along the way. Like pruning any other plant, pruning grape vines is all about knowing when and what to prune to keep your vines healthy.
It may take several years to see fruitful results. Utilizing pruning best practices will yield the best grapes, and therefore the best wine in the long run.
The process of pruning has several steps, including:
- Reducing the shoots from many down to one (with three buds) after you plant the vine.
- Pruning and shaping as new shoots grow. Once new shoots reach eight to 12 inches, choose the healthiest one and support it with a stake. Trim the others.
- Repeating this process, specifically with the support of the shoots on the stakes to keep it growing without breaking. Each shoot will become a permanent trunk of the vine. As they grow, you can train the smaller shoots from this trunk to climb up the trellis.
- Removing any shoots that grow from the base of the trunk to avoid a multi-trunk situation.
Once your vines are stable, your pruning needs will change, and be more important. For mature vines, the process includes:
- Pruning twice a year. Once in the winter to remove old and dead growth, and again in the spring or early summer to tidy the vines.
- Reducing buds even further. Though it may seem daring, heavy pruning will provide you with the best grapes for wine. 20 to 30 buds on each vine is the recommended number.
As you get more practiced, you may find other habits that work well. However, the general process should always remain the same. That is, unless you have an experiment in mind for vines that you can afford to mess with.
Growing Grape Vines
With all that information, growing and caring for wine grape vines might seem like a daunting task. Like any other form of gardening and growing, it’s not the easiest project. Luckily, winemakers have been perfecting the process for ages.
If you’re ever feeling unsure about the process, you can lean into the work of other winemakers and winery owners. There is no shortage of people who have experience with caring for wine grape vines. You’ll want to hire a sommelier for tastings.
For vine knowledge, however, working with other winemakers–and even hiring a viticulturist–will be a huge help. If you have the right people helping along the way, you’ll be off the ground before you know it. You’ll even be ready to host a winery wedding.
Types of Grape Vines
Before we dive into the variety of grape vines you can grow for wine, we should specify that grape vines aren’t just for wine. There are wine grapes and table grapes. If you’re doing your own research to find the right vines for your vineyard, be sure to keep that in mind.
Of course, we’ll be focusing on wine grapes for this article. The wine grapes you can grow are:
- Gamay noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot noir
- Muscat Blanc
- Orange Muscat
- Trousseau gris
- Chenin blanc
- Tinta madeira
- Malvasia vianca
- Alicante Bouschet
- Cabernet Franc
- Ruby Cabernet
- Petit Verdot
- Muscat of Alexandria
Some of those wine names you’ll have heard of, some you might not be familiar with. From types of white wine to red wine types, there are lots of options. There’s nothing wrong with growing the familiar favorites, but there are lots of options out there if you want to create some unique wines.
Grape Vine Soil Type
We dove into the best soil types for grape vines in our article on the best climate for growing wine grapes. We’ll give a quick overview here as well. You can also do a soil test in the area you're looking into.
Overall, the best soil for any wine grape vines is loam. Loam is a mix of sand, clay, and silt, which combined make for great drainage and nutrient retention.
Loam comes in different varieties, each with one of the three main ingredients serving as the majority of the mix. Which exact mix is right for you will depend on the soil you already have on location. Once you're situated soil-wise, it's time to dig a hole and prepare for the growing season.
Frequently Asked Questions About Grape Vines
Beyond that overview of how to buy and care for wine grape vines, there’s always more to learn. Some frequently asked questions are:
How Long Does It Take to Grow Grape Vines for Wine?
It generally takes about three years to grow grape vines to maturity. The first year of bottling might be a couple years after that. Like any other plant, vines take time to reach full maturity and begin bearing fruit.
Can I Grow Wine Grapes in My Backyard?
Yes! Grape vines are fairly hardy plants. As long as you follow the general rules of planting and care, you can grow them almost anywhere. Your home garden for grape vines can be successful with air circulation, optimal drained soils, and some cold hardy vines. Soon enough you'll be harvesting grapes to make some kitchen wine.
How Much Do Wine Grape Vines Cost?
Typically, you can expect to spend anywhere from $4 to $15 a vine. Some variance outside of this range is to be expected. Prices may be higher depending on the type of vine and the maturity of the vine. If you dive into seedless varieties, or European varieties or European grapes, you'll see some higher prices.
How Many Grape Vines Does It Take to Make a Bottle of Wine?
On average, a typical vine’s worth of grapes will produce about 10 bottles of wine. That vine will generally hold about 40 grape clusters, and approximately 100 grapes will grow on each cluster.
Purchasing and Growing Grape Vines: Vine to Vino
Purchasing and growing grape vines for starting up a winery can seem daunting when you're first starting out. We’ve covered the experts you can find in the winemaking field a few times throughout this article. We've also talked about the years of work that have gone into perfecting cultivating wine grapes.
However, we really can’t mention it enough: you’re starting on a big journey in opening a winery, but you’re not alone. Reach out to experts, do your research, and come on back to the BinWise blog with any questions that crop up.