WTM Wine 101 | Grapevine Grafting / by Adnan Saribal

Adnan works as a wine ambassador alongside a two-Michelin-star chef at a Spanish restaurant in one of Istanbul's most prestigious five-star hotels. He also enthusiastically shares his knowledge of wine on social media through his Wine Education page on Instagram.

"Grafting is the art of joining two pieces of living plant tissue together in such a manner that they will unite and subsequently grow and develop as one composite plant. If we look at the history of grafting, its origins can be traced to ancient times. There is evidence that the Chinese knew the art as early as 1560 BCE. During the days of the Roman Empire, grafting was very popular and methods were precisely described in writings handed down from antiquity. Grafting of grapevines, however, began with a historical event, which was the invasion of Phylloxera."[1]

Grafting is the art of joining two pieces of living plant tissue together in such a manner that they will unite and subsequently grow and develop as one composite plant.

Phylloxera is a tiny yellow insect that destroys grapevines by killing their roots. The insect first appeared in North America and then spread to the rest of the world. It nearly destroyed world viticulture before a small group of researchers revealed a solution. American Charles Valentine Riley and Frenchman J.E. Planchon discovered that grafting European vines (vitis vinifera) onto phylloxera-resistant, native-American rootstock (vitis aestivalis) stopped the root-eating pest.[2]

There are two basic styles of grafting. Field grafting is performed directly onto rootstock that has already been planted and bench grafting is done before the vines are planted. Aside from healthier, phylloxera-free vines, grafting produces faster growing vines that are easier to propagate and field grafting allows for much easier changes in grape varieties in an existing vineyard.

Sources:

[1] Hartmann, Hudson T., Kester, Dale E., Davies, Fred T. and Geneve, Robert L. 2011. Hartmann and Kester’s Plant Propogation: Principals and Practices. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

[2] Puckette, Madeline. 2013. There’s Still no Cure for Grape Pylloxera. Winefolly.com.