Vineyards represent one of the most erosion-prone types of cultivated land. Because of this, cultivation practices are very important in reducing the soil erosion risk in vineyard regions. The aim of this paper was to assess the impact of various management practices on soil loss in vineyards. Effects of tillage, hoeing, rotavating and grass cover were evaluated in small vineyards located in southwestern Slovakia in the Vráble viticultural district. Erosion and deposition rates were estimated using the levelling method. This method is based on an evaluation of variability of the soil surface against vineyard poles measured between the year of pole insertion and the year of measurement. On the basis of the measured data, a WATEM/SEDEM distributed soil erosion model was calibrated, and the total soil loss from the vineyards under different management conditions was estimated. The model shows rather good performance in modelling soil erosion, but at the same time, it shows lower reliability in modelling soil deposition. Downslope tilled vineyards were the most eroded; the erosion in rotavated vineyards is somewhat reduced. The most protective tillage system is hoeing. Considerably lower soil loss was estimated with the use of vegetation cover between vine rows, which is in accordance with agro-environmental schemes supporting use of grass cover as an erosion prevention measure in vineyards. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.