Can one grow grapes in cold countries?
Without hesitation, yes ... if one choose varieties adapted to the climate! Those grape vines brought back from holiday in the south absolutely do not fit, but there are many varieties that can grow in cold climates: do you know that there are vineyards in Norway and Canada?
The most resistant to cold wild species of vines are: "Vitis riparia" in North America and "Vitis amurensis” in Northeast Asia. These vines withstand winter temperatures of - 40 to -50 degrees centigrade (-40 to -58° Fahrenheit) and were therefore used in crosses to create very cold-hardy hybrid grape vines, like varieties Zilga (- 40°C - hybrid Vitis amurensis ) and Swenson Red (- 35°C - hybrid Vitis riparia).
Other species of grape vines, such as “Vitis labrusca” have also been used as a parent, giving hybrid varieties moderately resistant to frost, like Guna (-25 to -30°C). This is often enough if one does not stay in extreme climate zone.
On the other hand, if the "usual" grape vine (Vitis vinifera) is sensitive to frost, some varieties can tolerate fairly cold winters (- 22°C for Sieger and Pinot Noir). In addition, there are protection techniques to cultivate these insufficiently hardy grape vines where winters are harsh (earthing up, branch lying on the ground, etc ...). However they require additional labour and can be costly.
In future, new cold-hardy and disease resistant grape vines will be released in the market as many breeders, both private and from public sector, work in this area.
In fact, the genus Vitis is found from the equator to the northern tundra. Genes exist which would therefore allow, if we took the trouble, creating varieties of hybrid grape vines that can grow almost anywhere on earth.
For information here is a list of grapevine varieties grown in Belgium, sensitive or resistant to diseases: Amandin, Aurore, Auxerrois, Baco noir, Baidor, Bianca, Blauburgunder, Castel 19637, Chardonnay, Chasselas, pink Chasselas, Frankenthal, Gewürztraminer, Boscoop glory, Gros Colman, Léon Millot, Léopold III, Madeleine black of july, Madeleine royal, Maréchal Foch, Müller-thurgau, Muskat blue, Muscat of Alexandrie, Muscat of Hambourg, Nero, Black of Marseille, Black of Paris, Optima, Ortega, Palatinat, Perdin, Perle of Csaba, Perle of Zala, Phoenix, Pinot gris or Tokay of Alsace, Pinot Saint-Laurent, Plant de juillet champenois, Portugais bleu, Early of Looz, Early of Malingre, Regent, Ribier, Rondo, Royal, Rubens, Seibel 13053, Seyval, Sieger, Sirius, Tanay, Triomphe of Alsace, vroege vander laan.