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Organic Vineyard Grape Varieties

We have successfully overcome the temptation to make varietal recommendations on this page. Your plans for your vineyard, your own research and local advice are much more meaningful sources of information. However, links provided on the page of that name (see organic index page) may help with decision making.

All grape growers must take certain things into account when selecting varieties to be planted: regional climate, vineyard micro climate, plan for crop use, marketability/value, logistics (transportation), and growth habits. Smart growers add varietal disease resistance to this list. Organic growers must add disease resistance and perhaps put it at the top of their list.

Of course, all growers can afford limited experimental planting, and organic growers should make this a continuing routine. There will be some surprises, and some of them may be very pleasant.

Vitis Vinifera

The aspiring organic wine grower is engaging in a laudable, but risky business by applying organic management methods to a vitis vinifera vineyard. Don't be mistaken, that bottle of "organically grown" Chardonnay has not escaped our attention. There must be friendly microclimates out there, perhaps a lot of them which permit organic methods and vinifera to produce these fine products. But the web page written for everyone must take a more conservative approach than one of open advocacy for organically grown vinifera. The susceptibility of vinifera to fungal disease is such that some regular spray program is necessary to prevent and/or control crop threatening pests (see Grapevine Maladies and Pests). If the organic grower limits his/her pesticide arsenal to natural contact killers such as sulfur and shuns systemic pesticides, there will come a time, perhaps a lot of times, that a vinifera crop will not be produced.

French Hybrids

Growing French hybrids for wine production is easier, and there are varieties which demonstrate amazing resistance to disease without regular spraying. Wine quality as defined by the grower or his vintner buyer must also be considered. The market for these grapes may be small to non-existent in certain regions, but these are in the minority.

The genetic heritage of French hybrids may cause sensitivity to sulfur to be a problem. Chambourcin, for example enjoys good markets in the eastern U.S., is sensitive to sulfur, but may also be grown relatively disease free. Therefore, sulfur sensitivity does not completely shut out certain varieties to organic growers.

Table Grapes

Table grape growers using organic methods have the widest selection of varieties to choose from. Similar factors of concern to wine growers apply to table grapes: disease resistance, sulfur sensitivity and marketing considerations (e.g. seeded v. seedless).

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