Pruning: Optimism abounds as we prep for the next growing season!
Published on: Jan 10, 2022
During the cold winter months, when wines are resting in barrel in the cellar and the vines lay dormant in the vineyards, one of the most important stages of the winemaking journey is happening. Often overlooked, pruning will help shape not only the upcoming harvest, but the trajectory of a plant's growth for years to come.
Pruning is done to remove the majority of last year’s shoot growth that is no longer needed for the upcoming year’s harvest. Pruning decisions help shape the growth of the plant for at least the next two years. The major goals of a successful pruning job include allowing proper shading, eliminating the risk of water retention (and possible mold issues), managing fruit yield, and controlling vegetative vigor (green growth in a vine’s canopy). The general goal is to reduce yield as lower yields tend to provide for higher quality, however, each vineyard and each plant is different. Over time, a balance is developed between the number of grapes a vine can grow and the amount of shoots and leaves it needs to provide nutrients to the grapes. This balance helps determine the quality of a harvest.
There are three basic types of pruning, depending on how a vine is trained:
Head trained, cane pruned
Using a trellis, these vines contain canes from last year’s “new” growth. These two canes are laid out on the trellis, and they contain a number of shoot positions along the cane that will produce the coming year’s fruit.
Cordon trained, spur pruned
Cordon-trained vines have large arms or “cordons” that hold several spurs along the arm. These spurs are typically cut down to two shoots similar to head-trained vines, but the spurs are aligned in a row along the cordon.
Head trained, spur pruned (goblet)
Common among Zinfandel vines; these vines are self-supported and as such its one of the oldest forms of vine training methods dating back to Roman times. The vine is cut down to a number of short spurs which will typically grow two shoots (containing fruit) for every spur.
Even after the previous harvest is over and the cellar quiets down, a vintner’s work never ends. Pruning is often viewed as an insignificant step in the vineyard calendar, but it’s one of the most important steps in crafting high quality grapes and in return, great wine. It’s also the first step in a new growing season, bringing with it a clean slate and the optimism that the upcoming harvest will be the best one yet.