So what exactly are Vitis Vinifera grape varietals? One columnist takes a stab at explaining, plus adds in a nifty mention of Grand Junction and Palisade in the process.
Under the headlines, "From the Mailbag" Journal Inquirer Eugene Spaziani writes:
Q. From time to time, I have read and heard the term “Vitis Vinifera” regarding grapes and expect that it is a technical term. In order to clarify this term for me, could you explain what it is?
— D.F., Windsor Locks
"A. Vitis vinifera is the ancient Latin term for vines whose grapes produce juice that ferments into wine. Vitis vinifera originated in the Near East when man domesticated wild vines, but its numerous varieties and clones are most widely diffused in Europe, where four-fifths of the world’s wine is made."
"Such vines are grown in the temperate climate zone, generally between the 30th and 50th parallels in the Northern Hemisphere and the 30th and 40th parallels in the Southern Hemisphere. Altitude is a key factor. In most countries, vines thrive at 800 to 1,600 feet above sea level. Vineyards are rarely planted higher than 2,000 feet, but there are exceptions, such as Italy’s alpine Valle d’Aosta and parts of Chile, where vines are regularly cultivated at 4,000 feet. In Colorado’s Western Slope region of Palisade and Grand Junction, vineyards are planted at more than 4,000 feet above sea level with excellent results."
"Soil composition and texture influence the character and quality of wines. Grapes from vineyards in sandy or siliceous terrains often produce wines of fresh flavors and aromas to be drunk young, while those from calcareous clay soils made wines that are richer in body and better suited to aging."
"Vineyard positions are important. For most wines of quality, hillsides are better than plains, since day-night temperature variations essential to developing aromas are greater at the heights. In cool zones, vines on south-facing slopes benefit from full exposure to the sun, so grapes ripen earlier. They also need to be well ventilated to prevent mold."
You can read the rest of the Q&A column here.