grape, common name for the Vitaceae, a family of mostly climbing shrubs, widespread in tropical and subtropical regions and extending into the temperate zones. The woody vines, or lianas, climb by means of tendrils, which botanically are adaptations of terminal buds. The principal genera are Cissus, chiefly tropical, Parthenocissus (including the Virginia creeper and Boston ivy), Ampelopsis (see ampelopsis), and Vitis; the latter three include species native to the United States. Plants of the grape genus Vitis are extensively cultivated throughout the Northern Hemisphere. V. vinifera, which probably originated in the Mediterranean area and W Asia, is the grape of agriculture known since ancient times and frequently mentioned in the Bible. It is cultivated in the Old World and has been introduced successfully in South America and on the west coast of North America. Attempts to naturalize it E of the Rockies failed, chiefly because of the insect pest phylloxera; the grapes now grown in this area are either hybrids of V. vinifera with resistant American grapes or varieties derived from native American species. Chief among these are V. rotundifolia, the muscadine, or scuppernong, grape, and its varieties (James, Eden, and others) of the Gulf and southeastern states, and V. labrusca, the fox grape, from which are derived the Concord, Catawba, Delaware, and many other cultivated varieties of the eastern and northern states. California produces some two thirds of the grapes grown in the United States, and New York state ranks second in output. Grapes are sometimes classed according to their use, e.g., wine, raisin, table, juice, or canning grapes. The cultivated grapevine is prey to numerous pests and diseases and requires a great deal of care (see vineyard). The art of grape growing was said in Greek legend to have been introduced by Dionysus; Bacchus was the god of wine. Throughout history, the grape has been a symbol in art and literature of revelry and joy. Grapes are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rhamnales, family Vitaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.