Grapevines are plants that produce grapes. Grapes are fleshy, sweet fruits that come in a variety of colors such as purple, green and red. They are very high in the mineral manganese. They sometimes contain seeds, which were meant to be spread around by animals that consumed them, though some have been bred to be seedless. The vines from which the grapes have been cultivated for a very long time provided ancient cultures with both delicious grapes and wine, which is made out of grapes.
Grapevines grow around trees on the edges of forests. The vines attempted to stretch up to the canopy where they could receive both the largest amount of sunlight possible and the greatest exposure to birds. These grapevines wanted to attract bird attention so that the birds would consume the grapes and spread seeds around. As a result, grapevines usually do not develop as many flowers on parts of the grapevine where there is not as much sunlight exposure. The grapes are also not as appealing.
Grapevine cultivation began in Asia in around 5000 B.C. Pictures of grapes can be found on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics in 5400 B.C. Even older images of grapes were found on ceramics in 6000 B.C. In Ancient Rome and Greece, grapes were used to create large amounts of wine. During the Atlantic explorations that started in the 17th century, European explorers brought grapevines to the new world, which included what is now called the United States and Mexico.
The domestication of grapes and winemaking began in 3200 B.C. in Egypt, with wine being one of the foods of the dead. Ancient Rome produced enough wine for everyone and different provinces had competitions to see who could produce the best wine. Domesticators discovered how to get all grapevines to produce fruit instead of only having the female grapevines produce fruit. They accomplished this by breeding rare grapevines with perfect flowers.
Grapevines were almost wiped out in France in the 1800s as a result of a deadly louse that infected the roots of grapevines, almost killing all of them. Most of the grapevines in France are now more hardy American varieties.
Today, grapevines are harvested in Italy, France, Spain, Chile, Mexico and the United States. U.S. wine was once considered inferior to European wine, but the Americans beat out the Europeans in a wine tasting contest in Paris in 1976. Now American wine is considered as respected as European wine. Research is being conducted to find new health benefits of grapes.