This review addresses the role of nitrogen (N) in vine balance and grape composition. It offers an integrative approach to managing grapevine N nutrition. Keeping in mind that N excess is just as detrimental to wine quality as N depletion, the control of grapevine N status, and ultimately must N composition, is critical for high-quality grape production. N fertilisation has been intensively used in the past century, despite plants absorbing only 30 to 40 % of applied N. By adapting plant material, soil management and vine balance to environmental conditions, it would be possible for grape growers to improve plant N use efficiency and minimise N input in the vineyard. Vineyard N management is a complex exercise involving a search for a balance between controlling vigour, optimising grape composition, regulating production costs and limiting pollution. The first part of this review describes grapevine N metabolism from root N uptake to vine development and grape ripening, including the formation of grape aroma compounds. The advantages and limits of methods available for measuring plant N status are addressed. The second part focuses on the parameters that influence grapevine N metabolism, distinguishing the impacts of environmental factors from those of vineyard management practices. Areas for further research are also identified.