As we settle into a new year, the exciting possibilities of fresh beginnings, change and growth are all around us. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the vineyard. The importance of rest, resetting and re-evaluating is key to sustainable growth. There is great wisdom in the natural world; take our vines for inspiration…
In winter, they are dormant and channel their resources beneath the surface. They prepare for the year ahead, through nourishing their roots and storing energy within. By strengthening internally, they reinforce their chances of success for the year ahead. This sets the tone for new growth in Spring.
There is a great beauty to be found in the stark landscape and dramatic skies that surround Ridgeview in January. It is a very different scene to the lush, leafy rows of burgeoning vines and ripening grapes in the summer sun. But is one that encapsulates an authentic and poetic glimpse of the seasonality and endless perseverance of the natural world that Ridgeview works in harmony with.
THE ART OF PRUNING
It is when the vines are at rest that we commence pruning – cutting them back, assessing their health and directing their growth for the coming season. We caught up with Matt Strugnell, Ridgeview’s Vineyard Manager to discover more.
“Winter gives us the most exposure and direct contact we can hope to get to the vines. It’s almost like you can see their skeleton, their core. When the vine has foliage, you can only really view how it is performing in the present. But in Winter, you can see the vine’s past and understand how to shape its future.”
Matt and his team began this season’s pruning in December 2021 and hope to complete this by mid-February 2022. It is both a delicate and thoughtful process but one that needs to be carried out with relative speed, before the challenges of Spring frosts arise. There are over 17,000 vines on our estate which, our small team of three, aim to prune at a speed of around 30 seconds per vine.
“Effective pruning is a true skill and a lifelong craft. It’s something that can only be achieved through experience, good training and instinct. There is great value in constant human contact and connection with the vines. The importance of taste, touch and sight should never be underestimated in the vineyard.”
Each pruning cut is made with a myriad of aims in mind. We start by choosing a spur that will determine the future shape of the vine, then we select a fruiting cane for this year’s crop. There is also an important decision to be made on how many buds we retain on the cane and their internodal distance (the space between each bud). This is both about yield-management (how many grapes are produced) and controlling the vigour of the vine.
The natural resources of a vine is essentially a zero-sum game – there is a finite amount of energy to go around and we want that to be directed in the right places.
“When the vines produce their crop, they need to be able to ripen. And for that to happen, there needs to be enough canopy, which relies on strong shoots. It’s what we call “vine balance”, creating the right shoot, to fruit to leaf ratio.”
This is where Ridgeview’s dedication to excellence comes in to play. We focus on achieving the optimum equilibrium between all the characteristics needed for a healthy, flourishing vineyard because the quality of our grapes at harvest is of far greater importance than the quantity that are produced.
PRUNING FOR THE FUTURE
“Pruning is the single most important job we do as viticulturalists. It’s not just about the year ahead, it plays a vital role in the longevity and heritage of the vineyard.”
Ridgeview’s first vines were planted over 26 years ago and pruning is crucial in protecting and maintaining their legacy. Matt and his team are also in the process of establishing 1000 new vines on the estate. This Winter, in their early stages, they are cut back to their basal buds and we hope to harvest their fruit in 2024.
The value of time, dedication and foresight can never be overstated at Ridgeview. Not only is this keenly felt in our vineyard and winery, but in our passion and commitment to sustainability – a journey we are excited to share more about with you soon.