Vitis vinifera L., the grape variety that makes all quality wine, grows best in two relatively narrow bands between latitudes 30 and 50 degrees in the northern and southern hemispheres. It is thought to be native to the area near the Caspian Sea in southwestern Asia. Vine cultivation and wine production kicked off in Armenia. It then spread to Egypt and Phoenicia and around 4,000 years ago to Greece. The Phoenicians carried wine cultivars to Greece, Rome and southern France, and the Romans spread the grape throughout Europe. Vitis vinifera L. is the most important grape species in cultivation. Its cultivars constitute the principal grapes grown worldwide.
The plant is a liana (high climbing vine) growing to 32 m (35 yd) in length in the wild, but usually cultivated at around 1-3 m. Bark flaky. The leaves are alternate, palmately lobed, 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) long and broad. Flowers form in dense panicles that develop into bunches of berries (“grapes”). Pollinated by wind, insects, and self-pollination.
Of the world’s 10,000 known grapevine varieties, 13 cover more than one-third of the world’s vineyard area and 33 varieties cover 50%. Some grapevine varieties are planted in numerous countries and thus are called “international varieties”. The most obvious example is Cabernet Sauvignon, which is now one of the most cultivated varieties in the world (5% of the total world area under vines). The grape is eaten fresh, processed to make wine, vinegar or juice, or dried to produce raisins.
Approximately 71% of world grape production is used for wine (wine grapes), 27% as fresh fruit, and 2% as dried fruit.
Worldwide, vineyards cover an area of approximately 7.5 million hectares. Largest area is to be found in Spain followed by China, France, Italy, Turkey, USA, and Argentina. The area dedicated to vineyards is increasing by about 2% per year.
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