Vitis vinifera (Grape)

Grape vines exude abundance, in the shape and quantity of their leaves, the bountiful grape bunches, and the sweet and tart flavor in your mouth. It is hard to think of another vine that has wound their way through human culture across at least 7000 years. Vitis means vine in Latin, and vinifera means wine producing. Wild grape vines have either male or female flowers, while cultivated grapes have both. The domesticated plant cannot self-pollinate and thus wine growers can control the plants’ genetics; their lifespan is 60-70 years. These vines grow well next to hyssop, chives and basil, but not with radish as both taste different from proximity. The flavonoids and polyphenols in grapes are beneficial to blood vessels, and reduce inflammation. Resveratrol is an anti-cancer phytochemical in grapes.

Vitis vinifera is the European grape used in the wine industry, within which there exist 10,000 cultivars. Grapes are berries, botanically speaking. In the Neolithic era, when stone tools were used, wine making took place, with evidence from 7400-7000 BP in Iran in the Zagros mountains and from domesticated grapes from Greece from 4000 BC. Wine production was limited until, as Pliny writes, retired Roman legions moved to the Narbonnaise region of France and grew grapes and made wine for the urban working classes. As grapes entered new climates, they mutated into new cultivars. When the first Europeans, the Vikings, arrived in North America, grapes were so plentiful, they named it “vineland”. The native varieties in the US have a thicker skin, which comes off easily so are less popular as table grapes but are good for jams and juices. Vitis vinifera does not tolerate cold temperatures so only grows in warmer regions of the US. Columbus introduced this grape in North America but colonists had trouble cultivating them due to cold weather.

Elizabeth Oriel 2022