The Grape Vine is described by Loudon as a trailing deciduous hardy shrub, with a twisted, irregular stem, and long, flexible branches, decumbent, like those of the bramble, or supporting themselves, when near other trees, by means of tendrils, like the pea. The leaves are large, lobed, entire, or serrated and downy, or smooth, green in summer, but when mature, those of varieties in which the predominating colour is red, constantly change to, or are tinged with some shade of that colour; and those of white, green, or yellow Grapes, as constantly change to yellow, and are never in the least tinged either with purple, red, or scarlet. The breadth of the leaves varies from five to seven or ten inches, and the length of the foot stalks from four to eight inches. The flowers are produced on the shoots of the same year, which shoots generally proceed from those of the year preceding: they are in the form of a raceme, of a greenish white colour, and fragrant odour, appearing in the open air in June; and the fruit, which is of the berry kind, attains such maturity as the season and situation admit, by the middle or end of September. The berry, or Grape, is generally globular, but often ovate, oval, oblong, or finger-shaped; the colour green, red, yellow, amber, and black, or a variegation of two or more of these colours. The skin is smooth, the pulp and juice of a dulcet, poignant, elevated, generous flavour. Every berry ought to enclose five small heart or pear shaped stones; though, as some generally fail, they have seldom more than three, and some varieties, when they attain a certain age, as the Ascalon, or Sultana raisin, none. The weight of a berry depends not only on its size, but on the thickness of its skin and texture of the flesh, the lightest being the thin-skinned and juicy sorts, as the Sweet Water or Muscadine; and what are considered as large berried of these varieties, will weigh from five to seven pennyweights, and measure from one to two-thirds of an inch in girth. A good-sized bunch of the same sorts may weigh from two to six pounds; but bunches have been grown of the Syrian Grape, in Syria, weighing forty pounds, and in England weighing from ten to nineteen pounds. A single vine, in a large pot, or grown as a dwarf standard, in the manner practised in the vineyards in the North of France, ordinarily produces from three to nine bunches; but by superior management in gardens in England, the number of bunches is prodigiously increased, and one plant, that of the red Hamburgh sort, in the vinery of the royal gardens at Hampton Court, has produced two thousand two hundred bunches, averaging one pound each, or in all nearly a ton. That at Valentine, in Essex, has produced two thousand bunches of nearly the same average weight.
The age to which the vine will attain in warm climates is so great as not to be known. It is supposed to be equal or even to surpass that of the oak. Pliny speaks of a vino which had existed six hundred years; and Bose says, there are vines in Burgundy upward of four hundred years of age
In Italy there are vineyards which have been in a flour ishing state for upward of three centuries, and Miller tells us that a vineyard a hundred years old is reckoned young. The extent of the branches of the vine, in certain situations and circumstances, is commensurate with its produce and 6oil. In the hedges of Italy, and woods of America, they are found overtopping the highest elm and poplar trees; and in England, one plant, (lately dead) trained against a row of houses in Northallerton, covered a space, in 1585, of one hundred and thirty-seven square yards; it was then above one hundred years old. That at Hampton Court, nearly of the same age, occupies above one hundred and sixty square yards; and that at Valentine, in Essex, above one hundred and forty-seven square yards. The size to which the trunk, or stem, sometimes attains in warm climates, is so great as to have afforded planks fifteen inches broad, furniture, and statues; and the Northallerton vine, above mentioned, in 1785 measured four feet in circumference near the ground, and one branch of the Hampton Court vine measures one hundred and fourteen feet in length. Vine timber is of great durability.
The varieties of the Grape in countries where it is grown for the wine press, are as numerous as the vineyards; for as these for the most part differ in soil, aspect, elevation, or otherwise, and as the vine is greatly the child of local circumstances, its habits soon become adapted to those in which it is placed. "When it is considered that a vineyard once planted will last two or three centuries, it will readily be conceived that the nature of a variety may be totally changed during only a part of that time. The varieties mostly in esteem for wine making are small berries, and bunches with an austere taste. The Burgundy, as modified by different soils and situations, may be considered the most general vineyard Grape of France, from Champagne or Marne, to Marseilles or Bordeaux.
The best wine in Italy and Spain is also made from Grapes of this description; but in both countries many of the larger-berried sorts are grown on account of their producing more liquor. The sweet wines, as the Malmsey, Madeira, Con-stantia, Tokay, etc, are made from sweet-berried Grapes, allowed to remain on the plants till over-ripe. That wine is the strongest, and has most flavour, in which both the skins and stones are bruised and fermented. The same thing is the case in making cider; but in both processes bruising the stones or kernels is neglected. The vine was formerly extensively cultivated in Britain for the wine press, but its culture is now confined to the garden as a dessert fruit; and they have in that country not only the best varieties, but they grow the fruit to a larger size, and of a higher flavour, than is done any where else in the world; this is owing to the perfection of their artificial climates, and the great attention paid to soil and subsoil, and other points of culture. The fruit is produced in some vineries during every month in the year; and in the London markets (generally) it is to be had in the highest degree of perfection from March to January.
The vine will thrive in any soil that has a dry bottom; and in such as are rich and deep it will grow luxuriantly, and produce abundance of large fruit; in shallow, dry, chalky, or gravelly soils, it will produce less fruit, but of better flavour. Speedily recommends dung reduced to a black mould, the dust and dirt of roads, the offal of animals, or butchers manure, horn shavings, old rags, shavings of leather, bone dust, dung of deer and sheep, human excrement when duly meliorated by time, a winter's frost, and repeatedly turning over. Abercrombie says that dung out of a cow-house, perfectly rotted, is a fine manure for the vine; he recommends drainings from dunghills to be used over the ground once in ten or fourteen days from the time the buds rise, till the fruit is set, and that fresh horse dung be spread over the ground in autumn as a manure, and also to protect the roots from the inclemency of the weather; some, however, disapprove of manuring high, as being calculated to produce wood rather than fruit.*
The general mode of propagating the vine is by cuttings, either a foot or more long, with a portion of two year old wood, or short, with only one bud, or one bud and a half joint, etc. Vines are to be had at the nurseries, propagated either from layers, cuttings, or eyes; but plants raised from cuttings are generally preferred; many are of opinion that it is a matter of indifference from which class the choice is made, provided the plants are well rooted, and in good health, and the wood ripe. A mode of very general utility is to select the plants in the nursery a year before wanted, and to order them to be potted in very large pots. Varieties without end are raised from seed, and it is thought that by propagating from the seed of successive generations, some sorts may ultimately be procured, better adapted for ripening their fruit in the open air than now known. A seedling vine, carefully treated, will show blossoms in its fourth or fifth year; say that it produces a fair specimen of its fruit in the sixth year, then a new generation may be obtained so often; but seed ought never to be sown, except for experiment.
* It has been proved by repeated experiments that the best manure for vines, is the branches pruned from the vines themselves, cut into small pieces and mixed with the soil by means of a garden hoe. Dr. Liebig, in his 'Organic Chemistry,' mentions several instances of vines being kept in a thriving condition for from ten to thirty years by the trimmings of vines alone. The discovery was made by poor peasants, who could not afford to buy the ordinary kinds of manure.
The following method of grafting the vine is recommended by Mr. Loudon: Select a scion with one good eye; pare it beneath the eye and on the opposite side, in the form of a wedge. Select from the stock to be grafted on, a branch of the preceding year; cut this off a little above the second eye from its base; then with a sharp knife split it down the centre nearly to the old wood. Out of each half of the stock, but chiefly out of that half which is opposite the bud, pare off as much as is necessary to make it fit the scion, which must be inserted with its eye opposite to the eye which is left on the top of the stock, and bandaged together carefully with bass matting. Some use grafting clay, others composition; in either case, a small hole for the eye of the graft, and another hole for the eye left on the stock, must be left open. Tie over a little moss, to be occasionally sprinkled with water. It is very essential that the young shoot on the top of the stock should be allowed to grow for ten or fifteen days; then cut it off, leaving only one eye and one leaf to draw the sap and keep alive the circulation, till both scion and stock are perfectly united.
William Robert Prince, in his Treatise on the Vine, published in 1830, enumerated about five hundred and fifty varieties under cultivation, in the vineyard attached to the Lin-naean Botanic Garden at Flushing, including about ninety American native Grapes; but no sufficient evidence has as yet been exhibited of the foreign varieties flourishing in vineyards here, equal to what they do in Europe. Mr. Lou-bat once attempted to establish a vineyard on Long Island, which he abandoned after six years arduous exertion. The following have been found to succeed best in private sheltered gardens in the vicinity of New - York: the Sweetwater, the Chasselas, the Muscadine, the White Tokay, the Black Hamburgh, the Blue Cortiga, the Miller Burgundy, the Austrian Muscadel, the Messlier, the Morilon, the Black Prince, Blanc, and some excellent seedling sorts from the imported Lisbon Grapes. To plant a vinery for a full crop of good Grapes of various flavours, take a white and red Muscat, a white and red, or black Muscadel, a white Raisin Grape, a white and red Hamburgh, a Stilwell's, and red Sweetwater, a white and red Nice, a black Damascus, a red Syracuse, and a black Constantia. The above list contains some of the most esteemed table Grapes of all colours and flavours, which will ripen in succession.