Chicama Vineyards

Can you grow your own vines to make organic wine?

What wine lover has not dreamed of planting a few vines on his land to make his own wine? If these utopian-looking projects germinate at the end of the evening after tasting a few bottles, it is not impossible in the context of family consumption. Then it will be necessary to discover all the secrets and techniques of grape fermentation, without hiding the difficulties of winemaking and its solutions.

The Regulation of Amateur Viniculture

If you want to devote yourself to viticulture with family, friends, through an association, without marketing your production, but simply to the joy of sharing a project locally, a little in the sense of AMAP and locavorism, you still have to submit to the management declarations of your “vineyard” to customs.

You are producing a wine without a geographical indication (VSIG) from your “family vine (and the like)”, an idea that disappeared between 1953 and January 2016 when the regulations were restored.

Before planting your family vine with an area of no more than 10 ares (1000m²), you must submit to the following formalities:

  • to get a siren/sirret number,
  • submit the project motivating the vineyard, indicating the cadastral reference and the landowner, by letter to the Regional Directorate (or, depending on the region, to the General Directorate for Customs and Indirect Taxes (DRDDI), which will enter you in the Computerized Wine Register (CVI) with a receipt corresponding to an identification of your wine-growing company (EVV),)
  • the forms “Declaration of Intent to Plant” (cerfa 11949*04) and “Modification of the Structure of Wine Soils” (cerfa 12064*03) and send it to the DRDDI; the information requested includes the name and colour of the vine varieties and the names of the documents.

Which grape varieties should be grown for a family vine?

The grape variety (Vitis vinifera) of European origin is the most widespread, but among its thousands of varieties or grape varieties that exist, how can one choose? Nothing is easy, because after Terroir the Gamay, Pinot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, etc. do not produce the same wines.

First, it appears advisable to select varieties that are less restrictive in terms of treatment, including sulphur and copper, which have long-term soil effects. In addition, the absence of chemical inputs should help to protect the environment and human health.

Even if the so-called “wine grapes”, which are intended for the production of wine, must be good table grapes for eating, the former are particularly juicy, and this is what you are looking for when you want to produce wine.

Since the phylloxera disaster in the 19th century, traditional grape varieties have been grafted onto American rootstocks that are resistant to the dangerous aphid but more susceptible to fungal diseases. Hybrid varieties between Vitis vinifera and other species such as Vitis riparia, Vitis rupestris of American origin, for example, were therefore developed vine-free. And finally, it is best to focus on hybrid varieties of vines that are grafted on American rootstocks and sold in wineries, which is very good advice and may even suggest a subsoil adapted to your country if you have a soil analysis.

When and how is the vine planted?

Prefer bare root plants that are cheaper than container plants and easier to ship. They are planted between November and March-April, with the exception of the frost period. The more the area tends to late frost, the more it is advisable to wait until March or April to plant: this is how bud growth will be later when the frosts are over.

Cut the roots a few centimetres apart and praline the plants before placing them in a hole 25-30cm deep so that the grafting point is just above the ground (between 2 and 5cm). Plenty of water. Place each vine from 50cm to 1m. Place a 1m pole and a plastic mesh sleeve to prevent the different browsers (rabbits, deer…) from destroying the shoots. Don’t forget to cover the ground with mulch and let the grass grow between the rows.

Old further steps await you before drinking: vineyard management, training pruning, care pruning, pest and disease monitoring, weather management, harvesting, vinification, bottling and tasting!

If you live in a cooler area, I recommend you invest in a small greenhouse, you will easily find a second hand at the right price.