Grapes are a native fruit of Asia, and the cultivated varieties have been produced in their natural habitat -- and well beyond -- for the past 5,000 years. The wild grape varieties have been used in human societies since prehistoric and biblical times. The fruit has been used in winemaking since early Greek and Roman civilizations.
Grape vines are among the plants with very long lifespans, many of 100 or more years, cites Michael Gibson in “The Sommelier Prep Course.” Newly planted vines take anywhere between three to five years to establish completely and start bearing fruit. The age of 10 to 30 years is considered the prime fruit production age of grape vines. The wineries that harvest their wine grapes on older vines actually label their wine Old Wine or Vielle Vignes in French.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010, the oldest living grapevine, as proven by genetic testing, is located in the Slovenian city of Maribor. The age of the vine is confirmed to be over the age of 400 years, cites Michael Gibson in “The Sommelier Prep Course.” The vine is still in production, and the resulting vine is presented as ceremonial gifts from the local government.
Growing the vines in a healthy cultural environment reduces diseases and improve lifespan. Grape vines grow well in a variety of well-drained soil. The plants do not thrive in poorly drained, heavy clay ground. Preferred soil is a deep, well-drained loam. Plant the vines in areas of full sun, as fruit requires full-sun exposure to ripen well. Select a site protected from high winds to avoid damage to the woody vines. Do not plant in areas that tend to collect standing water during rains.
Picking ripe fruit is important, as grapes do not ripen off the vine. The fruit color isn’t the only ripeness indicator. Taste the table grapes, as these will become sweeter and less acidic once ripe. Grapes require an average temperatures of over 50 degrees F or more for the fruit to reach maturity. It is best to sample the fruit continually and note the dates. Harvest when the taste is your liking. This makes it easy to focus on harvest dates for following years.
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