The young vine takes about four years to reach its fruit bearing stage. During this time the plant requires to be properly trained so as to obtain the best results from the growing grape. Now, although there are many different systems of rearing vines, yet in the main they consist of an upright stem or trunk, and an upper part or crown - the latter varying considerably in shape. Thus we have the "gooseberry-bush " style, which is employed for those vines requiring short pruning. Then there is the "trellising" style, for the long-pruned varieties, in which the vine is trained to a great distance along a wire. Indeed, these two methods may be taken to represent the two main styles of training the vine; although the different modifications used in various countries are almost endless.
There is, however, one important point which requires attention, no matter what system is adopted, and it is the height of the vine above the ground. The nearer a vine is to the ground, the more radiated light and heat it receives, and as a consequence its resulting wine is stronger. In vines so near the ground, also, the alkaline dust arising from the soil neutralises the natural acid of the fruit, and prejudicially affects the fermentation of the wine.
As a matter of fact the earthy taste - gout de terroir - which is sometimes present in wine, is believed to be caused by a certain amount of soil being present on the grapes during fermentation. This must be looked to, especially in the warmer districts, where by giving the vine a greater distance above the ground, a lighter, more delicate, and better wine, quite free from the foregoing demerit, is produced.
The testimony of experts throughout Australia is unanimously in favour of raising the vine sufficiently above the ground, so as to keep the grapes well off the soil, and also to provide for the free circulation of air beneath. It is true that in some parts of the Continent the practice for ages has been to keep the vines well down against the earth. But this is done to secure the advantages of the radiated heat, and enable the grapes to ripen. In Australia, however, even in the elevated districts, the sun is usually warm enough to ripen the grapes without this being necessary.