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What is a Vineyard?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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If you happen to live in any regions that produce wine, you are probably already familiar with the sight of fields of grapes, exclusively grown for the purpose of producing wine or sometimes wine vinegar. Acres of land can be devoted to the vineyard, and in certain parts of the world, the land is separated in sections where different types of grapes are grown. A vineyard could for instance have one part of the land designated for the growing of Chardonnay grapes, another to Pinot Noir, and a third to Zinfandel. When it is time to harvest the grapes, which may have slightly different harvesting times, vineyard workers pick the sections separately, so as not to confuse which grapes will make certain types of wine.

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Except during the winter months, when grape vines are dormant, a vineyard is a place of extraordinary activity. Daily workers, in the US, mainly migrant and immigrant workers, provide daily care to the growing grapes, apply fertilizers or chemical sprays as needed and check the grapes for problems or the presence of mold or pests. An unseen aspect of the vineyard, if wine is made onsite, are the laboratory workers. They not only evaluate the chemical nature of wine that is already bottled, but look at the chemical composition of grapes as they ripen to determine when they are ripe, and what adjustments may be necessary once the grapes are pressed. They will then evaluate the grape juice for readiness to be sold as wine. Chemists who work as analysts and winemakers are called enologists.

Vineyards may also be in the business of selling wine directly from a tasting room, or offering tours of winemaking apparatus. Many wineries not only sell wines to larger distributors, but also sell wine in-house, and offer visitors opportunities to taste their different varietals. This means a vineyard attached to a winery will have a chemistry staff, and a staff dedicated to customer service, to marketing and distribution. Jobs as tasting experts or tour guides are common in larger wineries. Some wineries are so small, they distribute only from their winery or to buyers who approach them, like individual restaurants. This cuts down on marketing costs and allows the winery to derive more profit from the direct sale of wine.

Not all vineyards make or sell wine. A growing market is simply the growing of wine grapes, which are then sold in bulk to larger wineries. In fact, even a number of wineries that grow grapes on site may get some of their grapes from other countries or regions. The larger the winery, the more the chance that at least some of the grapes are not grown on site.

In various areas designated as wine countries, where a lot of wine is produced, some people love the look of vineyards, especially in fall as the grape leaves turn orange, yellow and purple. Others complain that too many vineyards can push out other crops since it is a more profitable farming market. One complaint issued by many who live in Sonoma County, California wine country, is the huge number of vineyards that have replaced apple, other fruit and walnut orchards. The Gravenstein apple, largely considered to be one of the superlative baking apples, was grown mostly in Sebastopol, California. It has now been designated a slow food, because so many apple orchards have been pulled down in order to generate more space for vineyards.

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