Grape to Glass  :  Planting Wine Grapes

Much of the winemaking process starts before the grapes arrive at the winery. A grape, and the resulting wine, can be shaped by the care it receives, the location it’s planted in and time it spends on the vine, along with many other factors.

pinot noir

Since wine grapes are influenced by their surroundings, California growers play an integral part in making sure the state’s wines have complexity and exceptional flavor.

 
gnarly old vine

Clone

A grapevine variety replicated from a particular “mother” vine and selected for particular attributes.

Clones & Rootstocks

Clones – Most of us think of a grape variety as one type of grape that is consistent from vine to vine. In reality, each type of grape variety has many different “clones” that were all derived from the same type of grape vine. For instance, there are dozens of merlot clones, each with its own unique personality and characteristics. One merlot vine may produce smaller grapes than another, which might produce a more tannic wine than a vine with larger grapes ­– but they’re still both merlot grapes.

Since clones can taste very different from one another, they are of great importance to both the grower and the winemaker. Many California growers plant a mixture of clones, which can help give wine more complex flavors – yet another example of how the winemaking process starts in the vineyard.

Rootstocks – Surprisingly, grapevines very often aren’t grown on their own roots. Most grapevines are grafted onto different rootstocks. Many grape varieties have roots that don’t grow well in certain soil conditions or are susceptible to pests. Using nursery-bred rootstocks that are more tolerant of different soils and pest threats, California’s wine growers often graft their grapevines onto these heartier foundations for more resilient plants. Rootstocks come in many varieties as well, and each has its own characteristics, so growers must carefully select the right match for their grapevines to thrive.

 

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