The grape vine is the source of all wine. Reaching the highest level of quality in wine is only possible by starting with the highest quality fruit. Maximizing fruit quality from any vineyard site can be a lengthy process, because the end results are revealed only after several seasons of comparison.
Grapes are the largest fruit crop on earth. The grapevine prefers the temperate climate in which it evolved, with warm, dry summers and mild winters. Winters of sustained cold kill grapevines. High humidity promotes vine disease. Tropical temperatures disrupt the normal vine cycle of winter dormancy.
Grapevines are fairly adaptable plants, growing in a wide variety of soil types, from light sand to packed clay, and flourishing around the globe in the temperate bands between 20° and 50° Latitude, north or south of the Equator. They are successfully grown in Europe, the Balkans, Asia, Mediterranean and South Africa, South Australia and New Zealand, most of North America and a good portion of South America.
There are multiple and interlacing factors to consider when starting a vineyard, in order to ultimately achieve highest fruit quality. In selecting a site, the average length of the ripening season, the normal annual weather conditions, the soil type and chemistry, fertility and drainage, the topography, sun exposure, and likely pest problems should all be taken into account well before the first vine is planted.
That information will bear upon the decisions of vine variety, vine density, row direction and spacing, irrigation and frost protection methods, vine training system, as well as fertilization and pest control management. These in turn will affect choices in crop load, canopy management, harvesting, and pruning. At each step in establishing and maintaining wine vines, the grower must evaluate and commit to a course of inevitable compromise between highest quality and practical economy. Yet the results of even the most carefully researched and executed decisions are ultimately at the whim of Nature.