A vineyard is a plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice.
The science, practice and study of vineyard production is known as viticulture. It is a branch of the science of horticulture.
A vineyard is often characterised by its terroir, a French term loosely translating as “a sense of place” that refers to the specific geographical and geological characteristics of grapevine plantations, which may be imparted in the wine.
The best soils for vineyards are not the rich, fertile humus suitable for other produce, but often hard, stony or sandy soils that are well drained (which is why slopes are often ideal). A common saying is that “the worse the soil, the better the wine.”
It is a cliché among winemakers that “wine is made in the vineyard.” This means that good quality wine can be made from only good quality fruit, and that what goes on in the vineyard is more important to wine quality than what happens in the winery.
The French tradition of wine making is what led English speakers to adopt a French term for “grape plantation”. Around 1300, the Old English term wingeard was replaced with the word vineyard.
One of the oldest written accounts is in the Old Testament, which says that Noah planted a vineyard and made wine.
The earliest evidence of grape vine cultivation and winemaking dates back 8,000 years.
Wine making technology improved considerably with the ancient Greeks but it wasn’t until the end of the Roman Empire that cultivation techniques as we know them were common throughout Europe.
The ancient Romans planted vineyards near garrison towns so wine could be produced locally rather than shipped over long distances. Some of these areas are now world-renowned for wine production.
In medieval Europe the Church was a staunch supporter of wine, which was necessary for the celebration of the Mass.
During the lengthy instability of the Middle Ages, the monasteries maintained and developed viticultural practices, having the resources, security, stability and interest in improving the quality of their vines. They owned and tended the best vineyards in Europe and vinum theologium was considered superior to all others.
By the 1550s, major vineyards had been established in Peru, Chile, and Argentina. During the 1600s, the Dutch established vineyards in what is now South Africa, and in 1788 the first vines were planted in Australia.
Settlers in the North America tried to make wine from native grapes from the 1600s and later tried unsuccessfully to grow European varieties. An interesting historical fact is that Thomas Jefferson attempted to establish a winery and plant Vitis vinifera vineyards in Virginia in the late 1700s and early 1800s. He was, like the others, unsuccessful due to attacks of black rot and phylloxera.
Probably, the first successful vineyards in the North America was established by Franciscan missionaries in California in the eighteenth century.
Numbers of New World vineyard plantings have been increasing almost as fast as European vineyards are being uprooted.
Dalai Lama owns the smallest vineyard in the world, which is located in Switzerland. It consists of only three vines and has an area of 1.67 square meters (18 square feet).
The highest vineyard is 3,563.31 meters (11,690 feet) and was achieved by Pure Land & Super-high Altitude Vineyard (China) in Lhasa, Tibet, China, on 27 September 2018. The vineyard was built in 2013 with the support of the local government. The construction of the vineyard increased job opportunities for the locals with most of the employees being local Tibetan villagers.
The Red Vineyards near Arles, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh, is the only van Gogh painting sold during his lifetime.