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Vitis vinifera L.

Old World, European or Californian grapes

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. Chemical Analysis of Biomass Fuels
  14. References


Cultured for fruit, eaten fresh or processed into wine, raisins, juice, with some cultivars adapted for the canning industry. Grape seeds contain 6–20% oil, used for edible purposes, soaps, and as a linseed substitute. The leaves of this and other species are eaten in other cultures.

Folk Medicine

Sap of young branches used as remedy for skin diseases. Leaves astringent, used in diarrhea. Juice of unripe fruit astringent, used in throat affections. Dried fruit demulcent, cooling, sweet, laxative, stomachic, used in thirst, heat of body, coughs, hoarseness, consumption and in wasting diseases. A malagma made from the seed is said to be a folk remedy for condylomata of the joints. The fruit, prepared in various manners, is said to remedy mola, uterine tumors, hardness of the liver, tumors, and cancer. The juice, prepared in various manners, is said to remedy tumors of the tonsils, excrescences of the seat, tumors of the fauces, indurations, tumors of the neck, chronic tumors, and hard cancers.


Fruits contain malic, tartaric, and racemic acide. Oxalic acid in unripe fruits. In Africa, per 100 g, the fruit is reported to contain 62.0 calories, 82.7 g H2O, 0.6 g protein, 0.4 g. fat, 15.8 g total carbohydrate, 2.0 g fiber, 0.5 g ash, 21.0 mg Ca, 19.0 mg P, 0.8 mg Fe, and 50.0 mg b-carotene equivalent. Elsewhere it is reported to contain 68.0 calories, 81.6 g H2O, 0.6 g protein, 0.7 g fat, 16.7 g total carbohydrate, 0.5 g fiber, 0.4 g ash, 12.0 mg Ca, 15.0 mg P, 0.9 mg Fe, trace b-carotene equivalent, 0.05 mg thiamine, 0.04 mg riboflavin, 0.5 mg niacin, and 3.0 mg ascorbic acid. In Asia, the fruit is reported to contain 50.0 calories, 26.0 g H2O, 0.5 g protein, 0.3 g fat, 12.8 g total carbohydrate, 0.9 g fiber, 0.4 g ash, 9.0 mg Ca, 20.0 mg P, 0.6 mg Fe, 6.0 mg Na, 111.0 mg K, 50.0 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.1 mg thiamine, 0.06 mg riboflavin, 0.2 mg niacin, and 4.0 mg ascorbic acid.


Perennial, woody climbing vine; stems up to 35 m long, but in cultivation usually reduced by annual pruning to 1–3 m; leaves thin, circular to circular-ovate, 5–23 cm broad, margins dentate or jagged, basal sinus deep and lobes often overlapping, 5–7-lobed, glabrescent above, often with persisten tomentum beneath; tendrils branched, normally opposite 2 leaves out of three; flowers numerous, in dense panicles or thyrses opposite leaves; flower clusters and tendrils absent at every third node; calyx very shortly 5-lobed; petals about 5 mm, pale green, sweet-scented; fruit a soft, pulpy berry, skin adhering to pulp, oval or oblong, ellipsoid to globose, skin green, yellow, red or purplish-black, in large, long clusters; seeds 2–3, sometimes none, pyriform, with rather long beak. Fl. May–June; fr. summer.


Over 8,000 cultivars are listed, most of them having been selected for a specific region and purpose. Subsp. vinifera (subsp. sativa Hegi) has hermaphoditic flowers, and fruits 6–22 mm, ellipsoid to globose, green, yellow, red or purple-black, sweet, with -2 seeds which are pyriform with a rather long beak. Cultivated for wine making and for edible fruit in southern and central Europe and widely naturalized. Following cultivars grow and produce in the tropics: 'Black Hambo', 'Muscat of Alexandria', 'Gordo Blanco', 'Fladi', 'Pandhare-sahebi', 'Bakhari'. In general, grapes are unsuitable to humid, steamy, hot tropics, as they need a cold period for resting and a dry sunshine climate for ripening fruit. At some elevations in tropics, these conditions are found and grapes will grow and produce fruit there, sometimes producing 2 crops a year. Known to grow in Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Trinidad, and Tobago. Reported from the Central Asia, Near East, and Mediterranean Centers of Diversity, wine grape or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate bacteria, drought, hydrogen fluoride, frost, high pH, heat, laterite, low pH, mildew, sodium or salt, slope, and smog. (2n = 38, 40, 57)


Native to Asia Minor where wild grapes still grow. Culture limited mainly to Northern Hemisphere.


Requirements are for long, warm to hot dry summers and mild winters. Plant damage occurs at -18°C; frost kills young shoots. Daily mean temperature should be at least 18°C. This species will not endure the high temperatures coupled with high humidity of tropics. Humidity promotes disease. In United States this grape is grown in California and Arizona, but will not tolerate the cold winters and humid summers of eastern United States. Grape culture is best where there is no rain between blooming and harvesting. Rain is desirable in winter but now in spring or fall. Irrigation is desirable and often essential; several irrigations may be necessary, beginning in spring when available water in soil has been used, and continuing until harvest; perhaps later in very hot regions. Sandy or gravelly clay loams are most desirable, as they provide good drainage. Soil fertility is not so important as soil structure. Ranging from Cool Temperate Moist to Wet through Tropical Very Dry to Moist Forest Life Zones, Vitis vinifera is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 0.9 to 27.2 dm (mean of 12.1 cases = 134) annual temperature of 8.3 to 28.5°C (mean of 21.8 cases = 133) and pH of 4.5 to 8.7 (mean of 6.8 cases = 66). (Duke, 1978, 1979)


Grapes are propagated from cuttings, field-budding or graftings to resistant rootstocks, such as 'Rupestris St. George', 'Aramon X Rupestris No. 1', 'Solonis x Othello 16131, 'Dogridgel or 'Salt Creek'. Prepare area to be planted to grapes by plowing to 25 cm and providing organic matter in soil,by turning under a cover crop orgreen manure. Grapes are set in either fall or spring. If in spring, plant early to give plants long growing season. Fall planting is unwise in northern regions. Damage from heaving may occur with fall-planted vines. Most commercial vineyards are set 3.6 m with 1-year old plants. In California plant spacings range from 1.8 to 2.4 m x 3.6 m, using 1350 to 1025 vines/ha, respectively. Plant vines about same depth as they grew in nursery, and prune them to a single stem with 2 or 3 buds. Trellis or posts with wires are necessary to train vines. Do not set vine too close to a wooden post, as the post will be disturbed when post has to be replaced. Plant 2 plants in space between posts. if concrete or steel posts are used, the grape hoe is easier to use if a vine is set at each post and one in between. Set vines directly under trellis. Vines out of line may be constantly injured by cultivation. Training and pruning vary with different kinds. Pruning, a very important practice, has a direct relationship to larger yields, higher quality and more uniform production. Vineyards are normally cultivated in spring and early summer in order to stimulate growth. Cultivation should be shallow, only 7.5–10 cm deep. If erosion is a problem, cultivate only enough to prevent weeds from becoming a problem. Leave trash and some growth on land and have some pockets to catch water in soil. Growth of vines may be restricted by seeding a fast growing cover crop which will compete for nutrients and moisture. Since grapevines often outlive those who plant them, and will grow and produce indefinitely with good care, they also outlive the humus supply of most soils unless replenished. Where manure is readily available, 25–75 MT/ha may be incorporated into the soil. If chicken manure is used, since it is richer in quickly available nitrogen, only one-third to one-half is required. Maintaining organic matter in soil may be aided by growing and turning under cover crops, weeds, hay or straw. Minor elements may be needed to prevent chlorosis, as borax, magnesium sulfate or ferrous sulfate. Fertilizer should be used primarily as a supplement to, not a substitute for, good culture and organic matter. Garden crops may be intercropped while vines are young; few large-scale grape growers practice interplanting or companion-cropping. Girdling of canes is often used to concentrate carbohydrates in fruit.


Stage of maturity for harvesting depends on the use to be made of fruit, such as table, jelly, juice, or wine. Guides to proper stage of ripeness are: taste (greenest grapes of cluster should be tested), color, aroma, changing of stem from green to brown, shrivling of stem, softening in texture of pulp, thickening of juice, ease with which fruit separate from stem, brown seeds, freedom of seeds from pulp and sugar content. Do not pick too early. Much weight is lost by picking too early and fruit is not so sweet. The longer grapes remain on vine (within reason) the higher the sugar content. Acidity is important to taste and to wine-making quality. In California type grapes, sugar-acid ratio gives a better measurement of quality than either factor alone. Grapes do not gain sugar after picking. As grapes do not mature evenly, they must be gone over 2 or more times to get most of crop harvested at proper stage of maturity. Careful handling of fruit is necessary for table use of grapes. Cut grape clusters from vine, pick off green and damaged fruits and place gently in picking baskets. Grapes should not be picked when wet, or during very hot weather, as they decay quickly. Mechanical pickers have been devised and some vineyards are especially trained for their use. Vinifera type grapes are usually packed by the 'stems up' method, starting at one (lower) side of a tilted box. They are usually shipped in display lug boxes, 5 3/4" x 13 1/2" x 16 1/8", and hold 28 lbs net. Grapes for juice or wine are sold in bushel containers or wooden lug boxes. Trend is toward huge lug containers loaded and unloaded from truck with a fork lift. Good fruit of good varieties may be stored for 3–6 months; usually held at -1° to -0.5°C, with relative humidity of 85–95%, depending on air velocity. Fumigation with 1% sulfur dioxide before storage and refrigeration with 0.2% of the gas at 10-day intervals helps prevent decay. Grapes picked before rains usually keep better than those picked after rains. Grapes for raisins are of Vinifera type. In California and Arizona about 90% of raisins are sun-dried between the rows of vines; elsewhere dehydrators are used.

Yields and Economics

Maximum productivity of a vine depends largely upon the vigor of the vine the preceding year. The more cane growth a vine makes, the greater its capacity to yield fruit the next year. However, overbearing weakens the vine. In California average yields vary from 25 to 30 tons/ha. World's largest fruit industry; in United States second to production of apples. This species provides 90% of worlds grapes. In 1965, world production was 54,311,000 MT, the major producers being, in descending order, Italy, France, Spain, USSR, and United States. California produces 90% of United States grapes. United States exports grapes to Canada, Venezuela, Philippines, and United Kingdom; imports from Chile, Canada, and South Africa. Production in United States is about 3.5 million tons annually, with an average price in 1967 of $.72/kg.


French get 2.6 x 106 MT/DM/yr of woody waste from their vineyards, the Italians estimated to produce a similar figure, for a European total of 5.2 x 106 (Palz and Chartier, 1980). Grape rinds, after juice extraction, are still rich in sugar. The grapeseed oil provides the pressed residues a heating value of 20,000 J/kg DM. Grape mare thus occupies a Oosition between brown and black coal. Emission of heat from grape mare is instantaneous, offering optimum growth conditions for thermophilic microorganisms. The process is accentuated when ground seeds, after separation and microbial decomposition, are replaced by stored mare. "The grape has therefore a multipurpose utilization but its use as source of energy far outweighs the rest" (A.K.S. 1979). In Australia, Stewart et al. (1979) estimated that grapes would yield 117 liters ethanol per ton at a cost of $1.11 per liter when cereal alcohol is running ca $0.20/1 and gasoline ca $0.15.

Biotic Factors

Many cvs of the Vinifera-type are self-unfruitful, and require another cv with an overlapping flowering period to be interplanted. In some cvs pruning affects the effectiveness of the pollen. Spraying grapes for control of insects and diseases is essential to production of fruit. However, the problems are different in different places. Each grower should study his conditions and apply only such sprays as found necessary and recommended. Infection must be prevented if clean fruit is to be produced. Thoroughness is very essential. Grapes are very sensitive to injury from 2,4-D. Grapes are affected by a great many fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, insects and mineral deficiencies. Local problems should be resolved with local agricultural agents.

Chemical Analysis of Biomass Fuels

Analysing 62 kinds of biomass for heating value, Jenkins and Ebeling (1985) reported a spread of 19.35 to 17.84 Mj/kg, compared to 13.76 for weathered rice straw to 23.28 MJ/kg for prune pits. On a % DM basis, the vineyard prunings contained 76.53–78.63% volatiles, 2.17–3.04% ash, 19.20–21.02% fixed carbon, 47.14–48.02% C, 5.77–5.89% % H, 41.93–43.90% O, 0.75–0.86% N, 0.01–0.07% S, 0.07–0.13% Cl, and undetermined residue.

Analysing 62 kinds of biomass for heating value, Jenkins and Ebeling (1985) reported a spread of 20.34 to 19.14 Mj/kg, compared to 13.76 for weathered rice straw to 23.28 MJ/kg for prune pits. On a % DM basis, the pomace contained 68.54% volatiles, 9.48% ash, 21.98% fixed carbon, 52.91% C, 5.93% % H, 30.41% O, 1.86% N, 0.03% S, 0.05% Cl, and undetermined residue.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Friday, January 9, 1998 by aw