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How to Find Land Suitable For Growing Vineyards

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Published on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 by Land Century

Do you dream of running your own vineyard? Vineyards require a lot of work, but if you have the passion, it’s well worth the effort. Ideally, you already have the knowledge and experience to get a vineyard up and running, but even if you don’t, you can certainly learn from others in the business.

No matter where you’re starting, the first and most important task you’ll face is finding the right piece of land to launch your vineyard. Here are some tips on how to find land that suitable for growing vineyards.

Hillside Land is Preferred, but Flat Land Can Work, Too

Hillsides are the ideal location for growing wine grapes – southwest facing hillsides in particular. Properties with sprawling hillsides offer well-draining soil, and typically have fewer frost issues in the spring. But hillside properties come with their own set of challenges and difficulties. For one thing, your equipment will take extra abuse. You'll also be limited as to how you space your rows and the direction you grow your grapes. The exposure and slope will determine where you place your vineyard. It’s also important to remember that terracing may be necessary, and this can cost thousands of dollars per acre.

The benefits of hillside properties is that they offer excellent cold air drainage, which protects against troublesome spring frosts. If hillside properties are not an option, flat land can work, too. They simply require a little extra work. Flat vineyards require more vine pruning to prevent the vines from getting too unruly, which can affect the quality of the grapes.

In short, hillside land is preferred, but flat land can work just as well as long as the soil is of high quality.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Exposure

One key important thing to consider is sun and wind exposure when looking for land for your vineyard. In particular, you want to know which parts of the property get the most sunshine during the growing season (March through October). Healthy sun exposure will give the fruit good flavor, so you want to avoid placing your vineyard in shady areas.

If the property does not get good sun exposure during the growing season, you’ll have a hard time making your vineyard work. Ideally, the property should get excellent sunlight from morning until late afternoon. Wind is also important as it protects the grapes from mildew and mold.

Like so many other things in life, the key to success is moderation. The property should have great sun exposure, but not so much that it burns the grapes. Airflow should be good, but not so strong that it shuts down the vines.
Once you consider the sun and wind exposure of the property, the next step is to consider the quality of the soil.

Get the Soil Tested

If you plan on using the property to grow a vineyard, you want to evaluate the soil through soil samples, test pits and the laboratory soil analysis. Also, you will want to get a soil map from United States geological survey to determine what soil series you’ll be planting your vineyard on.

The samples should be taken from a depth of 12 to 24 inches as this is the depth your vine will establish its roots.
If the results of the soil test are unfavorable, you can amend the soil to balance its pH levels and ensure that its nutrient levels are sufficient. But you may not have the time or resources to undertake this type of project. Weigh the pros and cons of amending the soil to see if you’re better off buying a different piece of land with suitable soil already in place.

Also, you want to test the drainage of the soil. There’s a reason why hillside vineyards produce some of the best wine in the world – because the soil is naturally well-draining. You can test the soil’s drainage after a good rain to see if it’s suitable for growing vineyards.

Elevation and Aspect Should Be Considered

Ideally, you want to be able to plant your vineyard on the highest point of the property as this will offer the best wind exposure and drainage. Vines that are exposed to standing water for extended periods of time will experience limited growth, and its small fibrous roots may perish in the process.

It’s also important to consider the direction the slope faces, if you purchase a hillside property. The ideal direction for the slope will depend on where you are in the world. In areas where the summer are cool, southern slopes are preferred. That’s why some of the best vineyards in Washington and Idaho in the U.S. and Germany in Europe have south-facing slopes.

Eastern aspects can also be beneficial as they are exposed to the warm morning sun. Vines that grow in this direction will dry sooner than those growing on a western slope, which may help reduce the risk of disease. And if you’re searching for property in areas with warm temperatures and low humidity, you may want to avoid west-facing slopes entirely.

Price and Size

Naturally, you need to keep your budget in mind when buying land to grow vineyards. Find peace of mind in knowing that you don’t need to buy hundreds of acres or spend a small fortune buying your land. In fact, we’ve seen quite a few successful backyard vineyards. It all depends on your plans for the vineyard. For commercial uses, yes, you’ll need bigger property. But if this is for personal use, you can get away with buying 10 acres or less.

But if you’re in the market for premium land for vineyard growing, expect to pay a pretty penny. The wine industry is huge, and the right piece of land can be highly profitable. Remember, no two wines taste the same because the flavor of the grape is entirely dependent on the unique conditions of the property (i.e. soil, exposure and wind). Finding land that’s suitable for growing vineyards can be a challenge, but keeping in mind the exposure, elevation and slope will help you find a piece of land that’s suitable for growing flavorful wine grapes that make delicious fine wine. California would be the recommended place to start looking today.
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