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grape, common name for the Vitaceae, a family of mostly climbing shrubs, widespread in tropical and subtropical regions and extending into the temperate zones. The woody vines, or lianas, climb by means of tendrils, which botanically are adaptations of terminal buds. The principal genera are Cissus, chiefly tropical, Parthenocissus (including the Virginia creeper and Boston ivy), Ampelopsis (see ampelopsis), and Vitis; the latter three include species native to the United States. Plants of the grape genus Vitis are extensively cultivated throughout the Northern Hemisphere. V. vinifera, which probably originated in the Mediterranean area and W Asia, is the grape of agriculture known since ancient times and frequently mentioned in the Bible. It is cultivated in the Old World and has been introduced successfully in South America and on the west coast of North America. Attempts to naturalize it E of the Rockies failed, chiefly because of the insect pest phylloxera; the grapes now grown in this area are either hybrids of V. vinifera with resistant American grapes or varieties derived from native American species. Chief among these are V. rotundifolia, the muscadine, or scuppernong, grape, and its varieties (James, Eden, and others) of the Gulf and southeastern states, and V. labrusca, the fox grape, from which are derived the Concord, Catawba, Delaware, and many other cultivated varieties of the eastern and northern states. California produces some two thirds of the grapes grown in the United States, and New York state ranks second in output. Grapes are sometimes classed according to their use, e.g., wine, raisin, table, juice, or canning grapes. The cultivated grapevine is prey to numerous pests and diseases and requires a great deal of care (see vineyard). The art of grape growing was said in Greek legend to have been introduced by Dionysus; Bacchus was the god of wine. Throughout history, the grape has been a symbol in art and literature of revelry and joy. Grapes are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rhamnales, family Vitaceae.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Vitis), a genus of plants of the family Vitaceae. About 70 species are known, distributed mainly in warm and temperate zones in the northern hemisphere. The plants of this genus have a vigorous root system. The stem is a liana, and in a wild state the grape is a climbing plant. Mature shoots attain considerable thickness; year-old shoots are long (3-5 m), thin, and jointed in structure. Leaves develop at each node of the shoot, and lateral-shoot and wintering buds develop in the axils of leaves. Inflorescences develop on the lower nodes of shoots and tendrils (modified inflorescences) on the higher ones. The tendrils are the means by which the plant clings to a support—in a wild state, to trees and in vineyards, to a trellis (an artificially created support). The leaves are whole or three- or five-lobed. Leaf placement is alternate. The blossoms are small, green, and gathered into a panicle; in wild grapes they are functionally female or male; in cultivated varieties, bisexual or functionally female, thus requiring cross-pollination. The fruit is a berry with one to four hard seeds and well-developed pulp (pericarp). Among cultivated varieties of grape there are some with seedless berries, for example, Middle Asian currants. The berries vary in color depending on pigments in the skin cells, as well as on the waxy coating and the so-called sunburn, both of which modify the basic color tone. The berries are gathered in aggregates, or clusters, which vary in shape, size, density of berries, and degree of branching.

Biological characteristics. In the life cycle of cultivated varieties of grapes, two periods are recognized in the course of a year, relative dormancy and vegetation, whose duration varies according to climatic conditions and the variety of grape. During the period of relative dormancy the leaves fall and life processes are retarded. In the vegetative period, which in southern regions of the USSR extends from April through October or November, six phases are generally distinguished. The first phase is from the beginning of sap movement to the opening of the buds; the second phase, from the opening of the buds to the beginning of blossoming; the third phase, from beginning to end of blossoming; the fourth phase, from ovulation of the berries to the beginning of ripening; the fifth phase, from the beginning of ripening to the physiological maturity of the berries; and the sixth phase, to the end of leaf fall and onset of the period of winter dormancy. Most varieties survive winter frosts of −18° C and some, down to −28° C. In the bud opening phase spring frosts (2°-3° C) are destructive. Optimal temperature for grape development in the spring is 15°-20° C, summer and autumn 20°-25° C. When the temperature falls to 8°-10° C, growth and development of grapes cease. Temperatures over 40° C may cause burning of leaves, berries, and young shoots. Grape cultivation requires 300-500 mm of precipitation falling evenly throughout the seasons of the year. If precipitation is less than 300 mm, it is necessary to irrigate vineyards; if it is more than 1,000 mm, fungous diseases develop that affect grapes. For grapes light-textured soils are selected, loamy or sandy ones containing a large quantity of detritus, gravel, and stones. Ground water must be no closer than 1.25-1.5 m from the soil surface. The best soils for growing table varieties of grapes are the fertile ones, such as the southern chernozems, humus-calcareous soils, and red-earth soils. Grape culture is not successful on heavy clay soils because they lack sufficient warmth and oxygen from the air. Excessive lime in the soil causes chlorosis. Grapes as a rule are propagated by vegetative means, with two- or one-year-old seedlings or green cuttings, layers, and grafts. Grapes are propagated with seeds only in breeding, by selection to develop new varieties. Layers are used most often in the reconstruction of old vineyards.

Regions of cultivation. Commercial cultivation of grapes has been developed between 34° and 52° N lat. and 20° and 40° S lat. In Europe the northern limit of cultivation on open ground passes through Paris, Liège, Dusseldorf, Kamenets Podolskii, and Saratov. In the USSR commercial viticulture has been developed mainly in Moldavia, in the southern regions of the Ukraine and of the RSFSR, in Transcaucasia, and in Middle Asia.

Economic significance. Grapes are used for food in fresh or frozen form (with or without syrup), and as a raw material for the production of wine, champagne, brandy, juice, compote, raisins, jams, marinades, and jellies. The chemical composition of the juice of grapes is 65-85 percent water, 10-33 percent sugar, 0.5-1.4 percent organic acids, 0.15-0.9 percent albuminous substances, 0.3-1.0 percent pectins, and 0.3-0.5 percent mineral substances, as well as vitamins C, B1, and B2, and the provitamin A (carotene). Grape skins contain tannins, pigments, and oenin, as well as volatile oils. The seeds contain 4-19 percent fats, and 1.8-8.0 percent tannins. The by-products of wine-making (residue, yeasts) are used for the production of ethyl alcohol, vinegar, tartaric acid, tartar, and Seignette’s salt, and the seeds are used for making industrial oil. Grapes and the products of their processing have dietetic value and are used as a medicinal remedy. Up to 80 percent of the grape harvest is used for processing, 5 percent is dried, and 15 percent is used fresh.

Grape varieties. About 4,000 varieties of the European grape are known, of which about 2,000 are cultivated in the USSR. The majority of them are only weakly resistant to phylloxera and fungous diseases. Most of the cultivated varieties of grapes belong to the European species, Vitis vinifera, subsp. saliva. The woodland European grape, (V. vinifera, subsp. silvestris), is the parent from which many varieties of the European grape are descended. In the USSR the woodland grape is distributed in the valleys of the Dnieper and Dnestr, in the forests of the Crimea, in the northern Caucasus, in Transcaucasia, and in the ravines of Kopetdag. A number of North American species, V. riparia, V. Berlandieri, V. rupestris, and V. labrusca, were also brought under cultivation. I. V. Michurin used the Amur grape (V. amurensis) to develop frost-resistant varieties so that grape cultivation could be extended into more northerly regions. North American grapes are used primarily as seedling stocks resistant to phylloxera and for obtaining hybrids of direct producers. Varieties from the crossbreeding of American species and the European grape combine a high quality of grape berry with resistance against phylloxera. In the USSR there are about 250 varieties growing in particular regions and they are divided into three groups. There are the wine varieties, used to produce grape wines, brandy, and champagne, among them Rkatsiteli, Riesling, Aleatiko, Aligote, Baian Shirei, Cabernet Sauvignon, and white Muscat; table varieties, used in fresh form, such as Chasselas, white Khusaine, Karaburnu, Pearls of Saba, Kirovabad table, and Nimrang; and the currant-raisin types, used for drying, including white oval Currant, Maska, Askeri, black Currant, and Katta-Kurgan. According to time of ripening, varieties of grapes are classified as very early (Pearls of Saba, Madeleine Angevine, and white Khalili), early (Portugizer, black Currant, Hungarian Muscat, and Early of the VIR), middle (Kirovabad table, Katta-Kurgan, and white oval Currant), late (Karaburnu, Alexandrian Muscat, and Nimrang), and very late (Ararati and Shabash). Some varieties are raised in hothouses, including Frankental, Foster, Dodreliabi, Royal, and Black Alicant. The study of varieties and species of grapes is called ampelography.

Methods of cultivation. The land used for a vineyard must be level and suitable for mechanized cultivation. Slopes greater than 10 percent are terraced. Before planting, thorough, deep (up to 60 cm) plowing is done, with turnover of the soil, that is, trenching. In addition, it is recommended that from 40 to 60 tons of manure mixed with 1 ton of superphosphate be used for each hectare (ha). Two to three weeks before planting of grapes the surface of the soil is leveled with a harrow. The land thus prepared is divided into sections of 50-75 ha each. The sections are divided by paths into 5-ha squares. Depending on soil and climatic conditions and on the shape of the vines, the rows are set 1.5-3 m apart and vines in a row are spaced 1-3 m apart. The depth for planting cuttings or sets is 50-70 cm. The best time for planting by means of a planting unit is early spring before the buds begin to open. In southern regions where winters are not severe and the soil does not freeze, planting may also be done in autumn and winter. After planting grapes, the soil is kept friable. In order to hasten maturation of the shoots (lignification) they are pinched in the second half of the summer. In dry weather vineyards are irrigated. In regions of sheltered viticulture, before the onset of frosts the vines are covered with soil, while deep plowing is done between rows. In order to shape the vines, they are pruned with pruning shears (pneumatic or hand) in the spring; in June and July surface roots are removed to a depth of 20-30 cm. The second or third year a trellis is erected, to which perennial shoots, as well as annual ones (both fruitbearing and fruitless), are tied. Shaping of the grapevine is done according to environmental conditions and the biological properties of the variety. Each year in fruit-bearing vineyards the soil in the rows and between the rows is cultivated. The growth and fruitbearing of the vines are regulated by cutting or breaking off those parts of growing shoots which prevent the development of fruitbearing shoots, by pinching back the tips of runners 1-2 cm, and by pinching back the side shoots (removing their tips). Once every two or three years it is recommended that organic fertilizer be applied (20-30 tons of manure per ha). Each year in early spring ammonium sulfate or sodium nitrate (3-4 centners per ha) is applied; in the autumn superphosphate (4-5 centners per ha), dicalcium phosphate (2-3 centners per ha), or Thomas slag (5-6 centners per ha) and potassium sulfate (1.5-2 centners per ha) are used. Irrigated vineyards are watered two to five times during the vegetative period; the irrigation rate is 600-900 cu m per ha. In many regions of Middle Asia and in the Azerbaijan SSR water supply irrigation is used (1,500-2,500 cu m per ha). In order to obtain high yields, either artificial (for varieties with functionally female blossoms) or supplementary pollination is performed. In the empty spaces in rows of thinned plants, seedlings are planted or layering is done. To rejuvenate old vines and to restore vineyards damaged by frost the parts of the plant that are above the ground are removed, and for shaping new vines shoots are grown from dormant buds. Clusters of ripe grapes are cut with a knife or pruning shears, packed in boxes, and sent to points of initial processing.

The principal grape pests are phylloxera, European grape moth, vine moth, citrus mealy bug, ant beetles, spider mite, grape snout beetles, and may beetles. Grape diseases are mildew, oidium, bacterial cancer, and anthracnose.


Merzhanian, A. S. Vinogradarstvo, 2nd ed. 1951.
Negrul’, A. M. Vinogradarstvo s osnovami ampeiografii i selektsii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1959.
Bolgarev, P. T. Vinogradarstvo. Simferopol’, 1960.
Prints, Ia. I. Vrediteli i bolezni vinogradnoi lozy, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The common name for plants of the genus Vitis characterized by climbing stems with cylindrical-tapering tendrils and polygamodioecious flowers; grown for the edible, pulpy berries.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. the fruit of the grapevine, which has a purple or green skin and sweet flesh: eaten raw, dried to make raisins, currants, or sultanas, or used for making wine
2. any of various plants that bear grapelike fruit, such as the Oregon grape
3. See grapevine
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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