Last updated

Temporal range: 60–0  Ma
Paleocene- Recent
Vitis californica with grapes.jpg
Vitis californica with fruit
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Vitales
Family: Vitaceae
Subfamily: Vitoideae
Genus: Vitis
L. [1]
Type species
Vitis vinifera
Species [2] [3] [4]

Vitis (grapevines) is a genus of 79 accepted species [5] of vining plants in the flowering plant family Vitaceae. The genus is made up of species predominantly from the Northern hemisphere. It is economically important as the source of grapes, both for direct consumption of the fruit and for fermentation to produce wine. The study and cultivation of grapevines is called viticulture.


Most Vitis varieties are wind-pollinated with hermaphroditic flowers containing both male and female reproductive structures. These flowers are grouped in bunches called inflorescences. In many species, such as Vitis vinifera, each successfully pollinated flower becomes a grape berry with the inflorescence turning into a cluster of grapes. While the flowers of the grapevines are usually very small, the berries are often large and brightly colored with sweet flavors that attract birds and other animals to disperse the seeds contained within the berries. [6]

Grapevines usually only produce fruit on shoots that came from buds that were developed during the previous growing season. In viticulture, this is one of the principles behind pruning the previous year's growth (or "One year old wood") that includes shoots that have turned hard and woody during the winter (after harvest in commercial viticulture). These vines will be pruned either into a cane which will support 8 to 15 buds or to a smaller spur which holds 2 to 3 buds. [6]


Developing inflorescences of Vitis vinifera Vigne inflorescence 2.jpg
Developing inflorescences of Vitis vinifera

Flower buds are formed late in the growing season and overwinter for blooming in spring of the next year. They produce leaf-opposed cymes. Vitis is distinguished from other genera of Vitaceae by having petals which remain joined at the tip and detach from the base to fall together as a calyptra or 'cap'. The flowers are mostly bisexual, [7] :143 pentamerous, with a hypogynous disk. The calyx is greatly reduced or nonexistent in most species and the petals are joined together at the tip into one unit but separated at the base. The fruit is a berry, ovoid in shape and juicy, with a two-celled ovary each containing two ovules, thus normally producing four seeds per flower (or fewer by way of aborted embryos). [8]

Other parts of the vine include the tendrils which are leaf-opposed, branched in Vitis vinifera, and are used to support the climbing plant by twining onto surrounding structures such as branches or the trellising of a vine-training system.

In the wild, all species of Vitis are normally dioecious, but under domestication, variants with perfect flowers appear to have been selected.

The genus Vitis is divided into two subgenera Euvitis Planch. have 38 chromosomes (n=19) with berries borne on clusters [9] and Muscadinia Planch. 40 (n=20) with small custers. [10] [11]


Vitis coignetiae with autumn leaves Ornamental grape.jpg
Vitis coignetiae with autumn leaves

Most Vitis species are found mostly in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in North America and eastern Asia, exceptions being a few in the tropics and the wine grape Vitis vinifera which originated in southern Europe and southwestern Asia. Grape species occur in widely different geographical areas and show a great diversity of form.

Their growth makes leaf collection challenging andpolymorphic leaves make identification of species difficult. Mature grapevines can grow up to 48 cm (19 in) in diameter at breast height and reach the upper canopy of trees more than 35 m (115 ft) in height. [12]

Many species are sufficiently closely related to allow easy interbreeding and the resultant interspecific hybrids are invariably fertile and vigorous. Thus the concept of a species is less well defined and more likely represents the identification of different ecotypes of Vitis that have evolved in distinct geographical and environmental circumstances.

The exact number of species is not certain, with species in Asia in particular being poorly defined. [13] Approximately 25 species are known in North American and about 55 in eastern Asia. Just one, Vitis vinifera has Eurasian origins. [14] | Some of the more notable include:

There are many cultivars of grapevines; most are cultivars of V. vinifera.

Hybrid grapes also exist, and these are primarily crosses between V. vinifera and one or more of V. labrusca, V. riparia or V. aestivalis. Hybrids tend to be less susceptible to frost and disease (notably phylloxera), but wine from some hybrids may have a little of the characteristic "foxy" taste of V. labrusca.

The Latin word Vitis has feminine grammatical gender, [18] and therefore species names with adjectival specific epithets take feminine forms, such as V. vinifera. [19] [lower-alpha 1]


The fruit of several Vitis species are grown commercially for consumption as fresh grapes and for fermentation into wine. [21] Vitis vinifera is the most important such species. [22]

The leaves of several species of grapevine are edible and are used in the production of dolmades and Vietnamese lot leaves. [23]

Commercial distribution

Vitis for producing Sherry at Jerez. Pago de miraflores la alta albariza sanlucar barrameda.jpg
Vitis for producing Sherry at Jerez.
Vitis near a house in Hontecillas. Parra en Hontecillas.jpg
Vitis near a house in Hontecillas.

According to the "Food and Agriculture Organization" (FAO), 75,866 square kilometres of the world is dedicated to grapes. Approximately 71% of world grape production is used for wine, 27% as fresh fruit, and 2% as dried fruit. A portion of grape production goes to producing grape juice to be used as a sweetener for fruits canned "with no added sugar" and "100% natural". The area dedicated to vineyards is increasing by about 2% per year.

The following list of top wine-producers shows the corresponding areas dedicated to grapes (regardless of the grapes’ final destination): [24]

Country Area under vine (ha x103) Grape production (metric ton x106)
  World 751175.7
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 1021 6.0
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 830 12.6
Flag of France.svg  France 786 6.3
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 682 8.2
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 497 3.6
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 419 7.0
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 225 2.4
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran 223 2.1
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 217
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 211 3.1
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 192
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 149 1.7
Flag of Moldova.svg  Moldova 140
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 130 2.0
Flag of India.svg  India 120 2.6
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 85 1.5
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 60
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 39

Domestic cultivation

Grapevines are widely cultivated by gardeners, and numerous suppliers cater specifically for this trade. The plants are valued for their decorative foliage, often colouring brightly in autumn; their ability to clothe walls, pergolas and arches, thus providing shade; and their fruits, which may be eaten as dessert or provide the basis for homemade wines. Popular varieties include:-

The following varieties have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:- [26]

Pests and diseases

'Palatina', a Hungary grape Palatina.jpg
'Palatina', a Hungary grape

Phylloxera is an American root aphid that devastated V. vinifera vineyards in Europe when accidentally introduced in the late 19th century. Attempts were made to breed in resistance from American species, but many winemakers didn't like the unusual flavour profile of the hybrid vines. However, V. vinifera grafts readily onto rootstocks of the American species and their hybrids with V. vinifera, and most commercial production of grapes now relies on such grafts.

The black vine weevil is another root pest.

Grapevines are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species - see list of Lepidoptera that feed on grapevines .{{ Unreferenced section }}


The grapevine (typically Vitis vinifera ) has been used as a symbol since ancient times. In Greek mythology, Dionysus (called Bacchus by the Romans) was god of the vintage and, therefore, a grapevine with bunches of the fruit are among his attributes. His attendants at the Bacchanalian festivals hence had the vine as an attribute, together with the thyrsus, the latter often entwined with vine branches. For the same reason, the Greek wine cup (cantharos) is commonly decorated with the vine and grapes, wine being drunk as a libation to the god.

In Christian iconography, the vine also frequently appears. It is mentioned several times in the New Testament. We have the parable of the kingdom of heaven likened to the father starting to engage laborers for his vineyard. The vine is used as symbol of Jesus Christ based on his own statement, “I am the true vine (John 15:1).” In that sense, a vine is placed as sole symbol on the tomb of Constantia, the sister of Constantine the Great, and elsewhere. In Byzantine art, the vine and grapes figure in early mosaics, and on the throne of Maximianus of Ravenna it is used as a decoration.

The vine as symbol of the chosen people is employed several times in the Old Testament. The vine and wheat ear have been frequently used as symbol of the blood and flesh of Christ, hence figuring as symbols (bread and wine) of the Eucharist and are found depicted on ostensories. Often the symbolic vine laden with grapes is found in ecclesiastical decorations with animals biting at the grapes. At times, the vine is used as symbol of temporal blessing. [31]

See also

Related Research Articles

Grape edible berry of a flowering plant in the family Vitaceae

A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry, of the deciduous woody vines of the flowering plant genus Vitis.

Phylloxera Species of insect that plagues grapevines.

Grape phylloxera is an insect pest of commercial grapevines worldwide, originally native to eastern North America. Grape phylloxera ; originally described in France as Phylloxera vastatrix; equated to the previously described Daktulosphaera vitifoliae, Phylloxera vitifoliae. The insect is commonly just called phylloxera.

<i>Vitis vinifera</i> Species of flowering plant in the grape vine family Vitaceae

Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine, is a species of Vitis, native to the Mediterranean region, Central Europe, and southwestern Asia, from Morocco and Portugal north to southern Germany and east to northern Iran. There are currently between 5,000 and 10,000 varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes though only a few are of commercial significance for wine and table grape production.

<i>Vitis rotundifolia</i>

Vitis rotundifolia, or muscadine, is a grapevine species native to the southeastern and south-central United States. The growth range extends from Florida to New Jersey coast, and west to eastern Texas and Oklahoma. It has been extensively cultivated since the 16th century. The plants are well-adapted to their native warm and humid climate; they need fewer chilling hours than better known varieties, and thrive in summer heat.


In botany, chlorosis is a condition in which leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll. As chlorophyll is responsible for the green color of leaves, chlorotic leaves are pale, yellow, or yellow-white. The affected plant has little or no ability to manufacture carbohydrates through photosynthesis and may die unless the cause of its chlorophyll insufficiency is treated and this may lead to a plant diseases called rusts, although some chlorotic plants, such as the albino Arabidopsis thaliana mutant ppi2, are viable if supplied with exogenous sucrose.

<i>Vitis labrusca</i>

Vitis labrusca, the fox grape, is a species of grapevines belonging to the Vitis genus in the flowering plant family Vitaceae. The vines are native to eastern North America and are the source of many grape cultivars, including Catawba, Concord, Delaware, Isabella, Niagara, and many hybrid grape varieties such as Agawam, Alexander and Onaka. Among the characteristics of this vine species in contrast to the European wine grape Vitis vinifera are its "slip-skin" that allows the skin of the grape berries to easily slip off when squeezed, instead of crushing the pulp, and the presence of tendrils on every node of the cane. Another contrast with European vinifera is the characteristic "foxy" musk of V. labrusca, best known to most people through the Concord grape. This musk is not related to the mammalian fox, but rather to the strong, earthy aromas characteristic of the grapes that were known by early European-American settlers in the New World. The term "foxy" became a sort of catchall for the wine tasting descriptors used for these American wines that were distinct from the familiar flavors of the European viniferous wines.

<i>Vitis riparia</i>

Vitis riparia Michx, with common names riverbank grape or frost grape, is a vine indigenous to North America. As a climbing or trailing vine, it is widely distributed across central and eastern Canada and the central and northeastern parts of the United States, from Quebec to Texas, and eastern Montana to Nova Scotia. There are reports of isolated populations in the northwestern USA, but these are probably naturalized. It is long-lived and capable of reaching into the upper canopy of the tallest trees. It produces dark fruit that are appealing to both birds and people, and has been used extensively in commercial viticulture as grafted rootstock and in hybrid grape breeding programs.

<i>Vitis amurensis</i>

Vitis amurensis, the Amur grape, is a species of grape native to the Asian continent. Its name comes from the Amur Valley in Russia and China.

Hybrid grape

Hybrid grapes are grape varieties that are the product of a crossing of two or more Vitis species. This is in contrast to crossings between grape varieties of the same species, typically Vitis vinifera, the European grapevine. Hybrid grapes are also referred to as inter-specific crossings or "Modern Varieties." Due to their often excellent tolerance to powdery mildew, other fungal diseases, nematodes, and phylloxera, hybrid varieties have, to some extent, become a renewed focus for European breeding programs. The recently developed varieties, Rondo, and Regent are examples of newer hybrid grape varieties for European viticulturalists. Several North American breeding programs, such as those at Cornell and the University of Minnesota, focus exclusively on hybrid grapes, with active and successful programs, having created hundreds if not thousands of new varieties.

Uhudler is a unique wine from Austria, which originates in the Südburgenland region. In appearance it is often a rosé colour, but is also made as a white wine. It has intense flavours of strawberry and black currants, a characteristic taste often called "foxy" in wine parlance. The grape varieties used are highly resistant to phylloxera and other diseases; as a result they do not often have to be sprayed with pesticides. They also require little fertilization because of their vigorous growth.

Kyoho (grape)

Kyoho grapes are a Concord-like cross popular in East Asia. The fruits are blackish-purple, or almost black, with large seeds and juicy flesh with high sugar content and mild acidity. The variety was first produced by a Japanese viniculturist, Yasushi Ohinoue in the 1930s and 1940s, by crossing Ishiharawase and Centennial grape varieties. Like the Concord, Kyoho is a slip-skin variety, meaning that the skin is easily separated from the fruit. The seeds are bitter and the skin is not traditionally eaten. The grape maintains some of the flavor qualities of the Concord, known to consumers from the flavor of most grape jellies and Concord grape juice.

Delaware (grape)

The Delaware grape is a cultivar derived from the grape species Vitis labrusca or 'Fox grape' which is used for the table and wine production.

Isabella (grape)

The Isabella grape is a cultivar derived from the grape species Vitis labrusca or 'fox grape,' which is used for table, juice and wine production.

This glossary of viticultural terms list some of terms and definitions involved in growing grapes for use in winemaking.

<i>Antispila oinophylla</i> Species of moth

Antispila oinophylla is a species of moth of the family Heliozelidae. It is found in North America, including Ontario, Quebec, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Tennessee and Vermont. Records under Antispila ampelopsifoliella from Maine, Missouri and Ohio may also partly refer to this species. In Europe, it is introduced into northern Italy.

Cascade is a red complex hybrid grape variety that was created by French viticulturist Albert Seibel in the early 20th century in Aubenas, Ardèche, in the Rhône Valley. It has been commercially available in North America since 1938 and has since been planted in Canada and the United States. However, in warmer climates the grape is highly susceptible to a number of grapevine viruses, which has discouraged plantings of the variety.

Muscat bleu

Muscat bleu is a red Swiss wine and table grape variety that is a hybrid of Garnier 15-6 and Perle noire. The grape was developed in Peissy in the Canton of Geneva by Swiss grape breeder Charles Garnier in the 1930s. Today the grape is used as both a table grape and for winemaking, producing wines that Master of Wine Jancis Robinson describe as "soft and grapey". Outside Switzerland some plantings of Muscat bleu can also be found in Belgium.

LAcadie blanc

L'Acadie blanc is a white Canadian wine grape variety that is a hybrid crossing of Cascade and Seyve-Villard 14-287. The grape was created in 1953 by grape breeder Ollie A. Bradt in Niagara, Ontario at the Vineland Horticultural Research Station which is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Quebec and Ontario. Some wine writers, including those at Appellation America, consider L'Acadie blanc as "Nova Scotia’s equivalent to Chardonnay".

Propagation of grapevines

The propagation of grapevines is an important consideration in commercial viticulture and winemaking. Grapevines, most of which belong to the Vitis vinifera family, produce one crop of fruit each growing season with a limited life span for individual vines. While some centenarian old vine examples of grape varieties exist, most grapevines are between the ages of 10 and 30 years. As vineyard owners seek to replant their vines, a number of techniques are available which may include planting a new cutting that has been selected by either clonal or mass (massal) selection. Vines can also be propagated by grafting a new plant vine upon existing rootstock or by layering one of the canes of an existing vine into the ground next to the vine and severing the connection when the new vine develops its own root system.



  1. -fer is an adjectival suffix, with forms -fer (M), -fera (F), and -ferum (N). [20]


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Further reading