This study was conducted in Champagne vineyards in France, and the objectives were to compare the main cultivation practices in Champagne vineyards and to specify the conditions required for the optimum effect of inter-row grass cover on runoff and erosion in experimental plots of 0.25 m² under simulated rainfall. Three types of ground cover were studied. In the bark-and-vine-prunings plots, the runoff coefficient (RC) ranged from 1.3 to 4.0% and soil losses were <1 g/m2/h. In the bare soil (BS) plot, the highest RC of the study was found (80.0%) and soil losses reached 7.4 g/m2/h. In the grass cover plots, the RC and amount of eroded soil were highly variable: the RCs ranged from 0.4 to 77.0%, and soil losses were between less than 1 and 13.4 g/m2/h. Soil type, soil moisture, slope and agricultural practices did not account for the variability. In fact, the density of grass cover in the wheel tracks explained a portion of this variability. The lack of grass in the centre of the inter-row allowed for a preferential flow and created an erosion line in the wheel tracks where the soil was compacted. This study showed that grass cover in a vineyard was not necessarily sufficient to reduce surface runoff and prevent soil erosion. To be effective, the grass cover must be dense enough in the wheel tracks of agricultural machinery to avoid RCs close to the RC achieved with BS.