As soon as winter properly sets in, we start the pruning marathon. Pruning is the most important annual job a viticulturist does. There are 16,000 vines to work on which means we will make 96,000 cuts, plus some tidying up. Each of those cuts is made to keep the vine in balance by ensuring the correct number of buds are retained, it helps determine how much fruit the vine can potentially yield this year and it sets up the pruning options for following years. It is also the most direct contact one has with their vines. There is an opportunity to evaluate, spot potential problems and get a feel for how healthy the vines are looking. This is where attention to detail comes to the fore.
So, all of these things are assessed by the pruner: quite a lot to think about when one is aiming to prune a vine in 45 seconds. By pruning, we are removing almost 90% of the previous season’s growth, leaving just 2 canes which will provide the growth for the coming season. From this comes the next task which is to remove about 6½ tonnes of prunings. The unwanted material is stripped out of the trellis, followed by a mulcher that shreds and collects the prunings.
Tying down follows pruning and is now well underway. This job involves tying the retained fruiting cane horizontally onto the trellis wire. Each bud along the length of the retained cane has the potential to produce a fruit bearing shoot. We train the vines in this manner so that the shoots grow vertically. Once that is done, we can deploy the bougies (frost prevention candles) and then we are all set for the coming season. As I mentioned earlier about an early start to the season: there is a lot to get done before the vines wake up in the spring and an early budburst means less time. It also means a longer period in which to be vigilant for spring frosts, but that is for another post.