NC State Extension Publications


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The grape and wine industry in North Carolina is now worth in excess of $30 million dollars. To assist North Carolina growers in the production a quality grapes for quality wines, a newly revised 196 page guide has been written for winegrape growers, called the North Carolina Winegrape Grower’s Guide. This publication provides grape growers with practical information about choosing an appropriate site for a vineyard, establishment, and operation of commercial vineyards in North Carolina. It includes a new chapter on spring frost control and examines the pros and cons of active frost protection systems.

Table of Contents

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New and current grape growers will find practical information on site appraisal, establishment, and operation of commercial winegrape vineyards in the North Carolina Winegrape Grower’s Guide. This publication focuses on production of vinifera and hybrid wine grapes.

Growing Chardonnay grapes, the number one vinifera variety grown in North Carolina, can be a profitable venture in certain areas of the state. The profitability analysis in this chapter, based on 2005 costs, shows that it will take an estimated $12,876 per acre to bring a vineyard up to full production in the fourth year.The vineyard would begin to yield $1,097 per acre in the eighth year, and the producer may be able to break even by the eighth year.

North Carolina has one of the most varied climates of any eastern state, and a diverse number of grape species and varieties can be grown. But to be a successful commercial winegrape grower, it is critical that you select varieties that grow well in your region and that have an established market.

Grapes grown in North Carolina are sometimes exposed to unfavorable climatic conditions and biological pests that can reduce crops and injure or kill grapevines. Climatic threats include low winter temperatures, late spring frosts, excessive summer heat, and unpredictable precipitation.

Vineyard establishment involves careful planning, thorough site preparation, vineyard design, planting, and trellis construction. Unlike dormant pruning or other annual activities, designing and establishing a vineyard must be done correctly the first time. In addition, the process must be tailored to the particular site and the grower’s intentions.

This chapter discusses the principles of grapevine dormant pruning, reviews reasons for vine training, and describes systems appropriate for use in North Carolina. Profitable grape production requires that grapevines be managed so that a large area of healthy leaves is exposed to sunlight. Such vines are likely to produce large crops of high-quality fruit each year.

High-quality wines — those that command premium prices — can be produced only from high-quality grapes. Grape quality can be defined in various ways, but ripeness and freedom from rots are two of the chief qualities. Producing ripe fruit with minimum rot and maximum varietal character is not easy in North Carolina.

Grapes are subject to attack by many different pests, including nematodes, fungal, bacterial, and viral pathogens, insects, and wildlife, such as deer and birds. Weeds, which compete with the vines for soil moisture and nutrients, may also be included in this list.

Grapevines require 16 essential nutrients for normal growth and development (Table 9.1). Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are obtained as the roots take in water and as the leaves absorb gases. The remaining nutrients are obtained primarily from the soil. Macronutrients are those used in relatively large quantities by vines; natural macronutrients are often supplemented with applied fertilizers.

Like other perennial plants, mature grapevines have extensive root systems and therefore, unlike shallow-rooted annual plants, they are fairly tolerant of mild droughts. Nevertheless, a certain amount of moisture is necessary to support growth and development.

To grow more consistent crops and improve your cash flow in years with damaging frost events, this chapter will show you how you can: 1) identify an active protection system to protect your vineyard during budbreak and early shoot development, 2) use the basic principles of frost and frost/freeze protection to deal with complex cold protection scenarios, so that you use your active protection system(s) efficiently, and 3) operate the equipment correctly.

Crop prediction or estimation is the process of projecting as accurately as possible the quantity of crop that will be harvested. Why estimate the crop? The most obvious reason is to know how much crop will be present for sale or utilization.



Printed Manual

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The new NC Winegrape Grower's Guide (196 pp) is now in stock, and this guide takes the place of Mid-Atlantic Production Guide. Order books online from the NC State Bookstore or call 919-515-2161 to order by phone.

Special Thanks

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This new guide represents the collective effort of many individuals. I wish to gratefully acknowledge the significant contributions of the chapter authors. Particular thanks are also extended to the following individuals and institutions for their special contributions to The North Carolina Winegrape Growers Guide:

  • Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Director of Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Winchester, VA, who graciously gave permission to adapt information from his classic chapter on Vineyard Site Selection (Chapter 4), in The Mid-Atlantic Winegrape Growers Guide (Wolf and Poling, 1995), to the newly revised chapter on site selection (Chapter 4) in The North Carolina Winegrape Growers Guide.
  • Mr. Andy Allen, Extension Viticulturist, Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, who co-authored Chapters 3 and 4, and for permission to use his color photographs of winegrape varieties that appear on the cover of the The North Carolina Winegrape Growers Guide, as well as in Chapter 3. Choice of Varieties. All of these photographs were taken in North Carolina vineyards by Andy Allen, former Extension Viticulturist, NC Cooperative Extension Service, during his employ at NC State University from 2001-2004.
  • Mr. Ashley Johnson, Ag. Research Technician I, Upper Piedmont Research Station, for his outstanding work in managing NC States research vineyard in Reidsville in the interim period from when Andy Allen left for The University of Missouri in July 2004, and when Dr. Sara Spayd arrived in March 2006.
  • Ms. Joan Gosper, Editing Team Coordinator, Communication Services, North Carolina State University, who provided careful editing of the entire guide and also gave tireless support and encouragement to me and all the chapter authors during this entire 18 month project. And special gratitude is also expressed to Mr. Gregory Miller, Graphics Coordinator, NC State University, Communication Services, for his great talent as the layout designer, and to Mr. Karl Larson, Graphic Designer, for developing such an attractive cover for The North Carolina Winegrape Growers Guide.
  • Finally, a special thanks to the editors family, Lindy and Ashley, for their support and understanding during this project.


Former Professor and Extension Specialist, Strawberries and Muscadines
Horticultural Science
Professor and Extension Specialist, Viticulture
Horticultural Science

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Publication date: Jan. 21, 2015

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