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Vine classification

The grapevine is classified according to the botanical taxonomy (hierarchical classification) as shown in the table below. There are different systems with partly different gradations or designations. Among others, Professor Dr. Bernhard Husfeld (1900-1970), the director of the Geilweilerhof Institute (Siebeldingen-Pfalz), created a widely accepted systematics. Another one was developed in 1967 by the French ampelographer Pierre Galet (1921-2019).


The following system is based on a modern plant system. Valuable information was provided by University Professor Dr. Manfred A. Fischer (Department of Botanical Systematics and Evolutionary Research, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria) and the German graduate biologist and grape researcher Andreas Jung.


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Vine - Explanations

Domain - Eukarya (organisms with real nuclei)
Reich rain Chlorobionta (chlorophyll plants) or viridiplantae
Subdomain subregnum Archegoniatae (archegonium plants) or embryophyta
About department superdiviso Tracheophyta (vascular plants)
Department diviso Spermatophyta (seed plants)
Subdivision subdiviso Angiospermophytina (angiosperms)
Class classis Rosopsida (three-furrow pollen - two-cotyledonous)
Subclass subclassis Rosidae (rose plants)
Order ordo Vitales (grapevine type)
Family familia Vitaceae (vine plants or also vine plants)
Genus genus Vitis (vines)
there are 13 more, but only Vitis is suitable for viticulture
Subgenus subgenus Vitis subg. vitis (formerly euvitis) - comprises about 60 species
Vitis subg. Muscadinia - comprises 2 to 3 species
Species/species species Vitis vinifera - only 1 species with two (three) subspecies
Vitis abcdef - about 30 species - Asian varieties
Vitis abcdef - about 30 species - American varieties
Subtype subspecies Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris (European wild vine)
Vitis vinifera subsp. caucasica (Caucasian wild vine)
Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera (noble vine) - European varieties
Variety varietas is reserved for wild vine populations (not cultivated vines)
Form forma is reserved for wild vine populations (not cultivated vines)
Variety/Cultivar - Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Traminer - 3 of about 10,000

Historical development

The genus Vitis, to which it belongs, is probably over 130, the grape-bearing variant Vitis vinifera probably over 80 million years old (there were still dinosaurs at that time). For over 79.99 million years the vine was dioecious, i.e. male and female organs were arranged on separate plants. It is only in the last perhaps 10,000 years that man has selected the hermaphroditic varieties for their incomparably higher yield security and has brought them into cultivation in large numbers. The hermaphroditic flower form thus corresponds, so to speak, only to the last milliseconds of vine evolution. However, this also means that genetics is mainly influenced by the 79.99 million year period. In the many spontaneous crosses that have taken place over time, the heterozygous nature (cleavage resistance) of the vines meant that the characteristics of the offspring were clearly different from those of the parents, resulting in a variety diversity.


The grapevine belongs to the order of Vitales (earlier assignment to Rhamnales was wrong) and among them belongs to the Vitaceae family, the so-called vine plants. This large family includes the 14 genera Acareosperma, Ampelocissus, Ampelopsis, Cayratia, Cissus (the formerly independent genus Pterocissus was assigned here), Clematicissus, Cyphostemma, Nothocissus, Parthenocissus, Pterisanthes, Rhoicissus, Tetrastigma, Vitis and Yua. Although some other genera also produce edible grapes, only the genus Vitis is important for viticulture. Ampelopsis, Cissus and Parthenocissus are often called "wild wine", although they are not wild vines (wild forms of cultivated vines). Due to too distant relationship, species of different genera cannot be crossed. The genus Vitis is divided into the two subgenera Vitis subg. Vitis (formerly Vitis subg. Euvitis) and Vitis subg. Muscadinia. Essential difference is the chromosome number.

Taxonomie - Reben-Systematik

The subgenus Vitis subg. Muscadinia has 20 pairs of chromosomes (2n = 40), the nodes are without diaphragm, the tendrils are unbranched, the berries are shed individually at maturity. There is only one Muscadinia species (with three varieties), whose correct name should be Muscadinia rotundifolia. However, it is often referred to in most publications as Vitis rotundifolia is called. Although Muscadinia does not play a particular role in wine production, its resistance to phylloxera and nematodes makes it interesting for the breeding of new grape varieties and rootstocks. However, the different chromosomes cause great problems in crossings. Some biologists argue that Muscadinia should be raised to a separate genus alongside Vitis.

Vitis subg. Vitis has 19 pairs of chromosomes (2n = 38), the nodes have a diaphragm, the tendrils are forked, the berries remain on the grapes until ripening. The approximately 60 species of this subgenus are divided into three groups according to their geographical distribution. In the European group there is probably only one species (species) Vitis vinifera with two subspecies as a result of the ice age. The subspecies Vitis vinifera subspez. sylvestris is the wild stem form of today's noble vines. It was already used in prehistoric times, but plays no role in today's viticulture. It was defined by the German botanist Johann Georg Gmelin (1709-1755) and occasionally named after him as Vitis vinifera subspez. sylvestris Gmelin. An eastern variant is the Vitis vinifera subspez. caucasica Vavilov, named after the Russian botanist Nikolai I. Vavilov (1887-1943). However, this division can no longer be understood today.

Cultural vine

The second subspecies Vitis vinifera subspez. vinifera (obsolete Vitis vinifera ssp. sativa) is a cultivated breed that has been gradually developed by man. It comprises all of today's approximately 8,000 to 10,000 cultivated European vines. However, only a few hundred are important for viticulture. The American group includes about 30 species, but not all of them are important for viticulture. The majority of the cultivated American vines are descended from around five to six species. A maximum of one hundred of them play a role in viticulture. The Asian group also includes around 30 species, of which the cultivated Asian vines are descended from the three to four most important ones. All of the approximately 60 species of the subgenus Vitis subg. Vitis can be crossed with each other, whereby this is called an interspecific crossing (see also under hybrids). The EU regulations regarding quality wine grape varieties must be observed.

Weinrebe - Weintraube, Rebstock und Weinberg

Main groups

Depending on the source (botanist, institute) there are often differences in taxonomic rank and hierarchy, which also depends on the respective state of research and knowledge. In addition to different classifications, individual botanists also used different names, which led to great confusion. An extreme example is Vitis labrusca with 13 botanical names. In order to be able to determine the origin, the botanist's name is therefore given at the end of the botanical long name. Especially in recent years, extensive DNA analyses have led to many new findings. What used to be regarded as a species has only proved to be a subspecies or even just a variety and vice versa. Today, an internationally valid terminology has largely been agreed upon, although there are still differences in detail. The following species are important in grape cultivation and viticulture

American Vines

Asian vines

European vines

Definitions of terms

In viticulture, grape varieties are often erroneously referred to as a variety (variété, variedad, variety), even in specialist sources. Just as frequently, the term variety is used colloquially in most publications. This is particularly the case when it comes to grape varieties with only slightly different berry colours. From a botanical point of view, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc have the same genotype. Although they are strictly speaking the same grape variety, they are listed as three different grape varieties (see Pinot). The same applies to the Muscatel and Traminer variety groups. However, the term "variety" may only be used in botany for wild forms, but not for cultivated forms.

The taxonomic rank of Forma below the variety is also not allowed, as it refers to minimal genetic differences such as only in a single allele (gene), which is only the case for very closely related varieties. For cultivated plants, the names variety (grape variety) or clone are correct. According to the nomenclature rules for cultivated plants, cultivated breeds (= varieties) may at most be called cultivars (cv. = from "cultivated variety"). One phenomenon is that particularly old and widespread varieties often have more than 100 synonyms, which often makes identification difficult. Identical names do not necessarily indicate a relationship (see Malvasia, Trebbiano and Vernaccia).

It would, of course, be desirable to be able to present the ancestry of all cultivated varieties in the form of a vine pedigree, but unfortunately this is not possible. See also the historical development of the cultivated vine under wild vines. Regarding the determination of the descent of a vine variety see under molecular genetics. Complete lists of relevant keywords can be found under vine and vineyard area.

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