Definition - What does Rootstock mean?

Rootstock, in the context of wine, describes a healthy root or part of a root used as a basis in grafting hybrid plants. A hybrid grape plant is made up of a graft between the rootstock plant and the budwood plant, also known as the scion.

In most wine regions, the grape plants do not do well when grown on their own roots. Rootstocks of one type of grape plant are grafted to the scion of another grape plant to create new plants with beneficial traits such as low or high vigor, drought tolerance or pest resistance. Rootstock may also be known simply as stock.

WineFrog explains Rootstock

The correct choice of rootstocks can improve the vigor of the grape plants, increase production and enhance the health and survival chances of the vineyard. By knowing the planting environment of the vineyard, steps can be taken to minimize any deficiencies that may inhibit grapevine growth and production. This is where rootstocks can make a beneficial difference. Grape plants that are grafted together usually produce plants that exhibit characteristics of both the rootstock plant and the budwood plant. This graft can make for a hardier plant that adapts to the conditions of a specific vineyard. Rootstocks are widely used in vineyards that otherwise could not produce viable grape plants by grafting varieties with specific traits that combat some of the following issues:

  • Wet areas
  • Drought prone areas
  • Pest populations (particularly phylloxera and nematodes)
  • Soil alkalinity issues

Some of the most commonly used rootstocks come from the Vitis species - V. rupestris, V. riparia, V. berlandieri and V. champinii all exhibit some form of tolerance to wet or dry conditions, soil alkalinity and pest resistance. Depending on the vineyard’s environmental deficiencies, these rootstocks are grafted to other grape plant scions to create a plant that can thrive, even in the detrimental conditions.

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