Friday, July 18, 2014

Grapes 101: Growing Grapes for Wine

There's a lot more to Missouri wine making than just picking up some grapes, squishing them and letting the juice sit for awhile.  You need to pick a grape variety that is good for wine making, plant those grapes, tend to the grapevines and harvest them to eventually begin actually making your wine at Lake of the Ozarks. has some great information and tips on growing grapes for wine!

Selecting Grape Varieties 

Wine quality is dictated mainly by the grapevines, not by the person actually making the wine.  The better the grapes you have, the better your wine will be.  The grape varieties you choose to plant should depend on the type of wine you want to end up with, as well as the climate and location in which you will be growing them.  Red wine is much easier to make than white wine, but the choice boils down to whichever you prefer.  For white wine, Seyval Blanc is among the best. For red, Chancellor and Chambourcin are excellent choices.  The best grapes come from the classic European wine grape, Vitis vinifera which can only grow in regions with warm, dry summers.  This is why California is such a paradise for wine making.  Although the Southeast is warm enough to grow these grapes, the dampness can cause mildew, rot and Pierce's disease. 

How to Grow Grapes 

If your grapevine roots stand in water they will die or at the very least won't produce good grapes, so be sure to choose a sloped site for your vineyard.  Site your vines on a southeast or southwest facing slope so their leaves can soak up the sun.  Sunlight powers the photosynthesis, driving the process that fills the grapes with sugars, which after fermentation become alcohol.  Since the grape skin contains all the flavor and color, you actually want tiny grapes with almost all skin and no juice.  This translates into concentrated, rich color and flavor in the juice, and ultimately in the wine.  Planting grapes in nutrient-poor and even try soil, will stress the vines, keeping the vine vigor down and producing small grape berries, which is exactly what you want! 

Planting Grapevines

You want to plant your vineyard toward the top of a slope and run the rows north and south so that the grapes get even sun as the light shifts from the east to west during the day.  Vines are best spaced 6 feet apart in rows 8 feet wide.  You should plan on roughly a gallon of wine per vine that you plant, so be sure to plant extra to account for a small crop or the loss of grapes due to birds, insects, hail or rot.  For a detailed example of a possible vineyard layout, visit:

Tending to Grapevines

You will have the most work in the first year.  You will need to select the strongest shoot and tie it straight up, attaching it to each wire it reaches with a loose piece of string.  Don't use wire to tie it because it can damage the tender shoot.  You'll then remove shoots that arise from the roots or the vine, leaving only those that arise from your selected strong shoot.  In the dormant season, prune the strong selected shoot back to the middle wire, keeping it tied there and prune off any side shoots that arose the previous summer.  When the vine's buds begin to grow in the spring, select one on each side of the strong upright shoot and loosely tie them horizontally to the lowest wire as they grow. These will become your vine's arms, from which all the fruiting canes will grow in future years.

Harvesting Grapes 

While tasting the grapes may seem like a great way to tell if they're ready for harvesting, you may want to invest in a hydrometer, which measures the specific gravity of liquids.  This will tell you the sugar content of the berries; a specific gravity between 1.095 and 1.105 is ideal.  By sampling the grapes after measuring, you will know what the grapes taste like at their optimum harvest state.  You also want to examine the seeds.  You are looking for dark seeds, but if they are green, you'll want to let them hang. However, don't let them hang any longer if the specific gravity reaches 1.105 because your wine will then be overly alcoholic and unbalanced.   

If you would rather leave the grape growing to the professionals, come by Seven Springs Winery where you can relax with one of our delicious glasses of wine.  Choose your preference of white or red, dry or sweet, at our Lake of the Ozarks winery!  Our vineyards at the Lake of the Ozarks sit atop 160 acres of rolling Missouri foothills between Camdenton and Osage Beach. The covered porch and patio area are ideal for enjoying a glass of Missouri wine and admiring the beautiful views.

Come for the wine...Stay for the atmosphere...Remember the view! 

Seven Springs is the finest Winery at the Lake of the Ozarks with a full service facility perfect for outdoor weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events and parties.  Call us today to make reservations for your special event!

Seven Springs Winery
846 Winery Hills Estates
Linn Creek, MO 65052

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