Let me cut to the subject – pruning our vines. (Bad pun.) After the vines in the vineyard have been dormant over winter, it is time to prepare them for spring. Our vines will soon come to life again, reinvigorated (I trust) after their winter sleep, and ready for budburst and show early shoots and leaves.
Preparation for spring is important for the vines as it gives them the right form or foundation to ensure that they have the best chance of producing the optimum yield of high-quality fruit. One of the ways we prepare for spring is by pruning the vines. Correct pruning makes sure that the vines set with the optimum amount of leaves and foliage, which in turn produces a sustainable and high-quality yield of fruit.
Vines that are pruned well minimize the chance of diseases, and reduce the number of pests that may affect them. Pruning well also ensures that air circulates around the fruit and foliage and that the sun can reach all of the foliage. So in pruning, sometimes less is more, as I will explain.
Vines need to have the right amount of sunshine on their leaves to allow photosynthesis to take place. Photosynthesis can be considered the first step in the process of making wine. It’s where the heat and light energy from the sun is captured to combine water and carbon dioxide – which then forms as sugars in the vines. These sugars, along with other elements, will eventually find their way into the grapes as they develop and will ferment into alcohol, and produce what we know as wine.
As is common in all aspects of the winemaking process, there are a number of ways or methods that can be used when pruning vines. Decisions made in the first years after planting vines will determine the methods that are used when pruning and will set the vines up for future vintages.
At St Maur, we employ ‘Spur Pruning’ of our vines, a more traditional method that yields good quality older vine wines. So as the vines mature and get older, so the quality of the grapes should improve as will the resultant wines.
In Spur Pruning, the vine is trained (and pruned) to grow up vertically, and then two longer cordons are retained on the wire trellis, to the left and right of the central vertical trunk. Each year, new canes grow along the two cordons. We select which of these we prune off completely and which we prune back to a shoot with two buds, called a spur. As the vine develops, these two buds, (from one spur) will grow into straight vertical canes that will yield foliage and grapes.
It’s important to decide how many of the spurs to leave on the cordons and at what intervals, as these will determine the amount of foliage and potential yield for the vine. These decisions eventually determine how the vine synthesises the water, carbon dioxide and essential nutrients, and how these will be distributed in the grapes the vine produces.
The final result of the pruning will be a great factor in determining the quality and flavour of the wine produced. It takes knowledge, skill and great understanding to prune well. It can also mean sacrificing quantity for quality, a decision we often make at St Maur to ensure our customers are satisfied.
So, let me get back to the vines, and when we’ve pruned the vineyard, it is then set for the 2020 vintage. Snip, snip!
This post was written by St Maur Wines