La Crema Winemaker, Elizabeth Grant-Douglas was out in the vineyards this week as our vineyard managers begin pruning the vines. Here she explains the benefits (and challenges) of this wintertime chore.
The main reason that we prune grapevines is to produce an optimal number of grape clusters. To do that we have to keep in mind that only the previous season’s growth has fruitful buds. In other words, any older wood will not produce grapes.
Therefore, the one-year-old wood that is left needs to be carefully thinned to achieve quality.
Left to their own devices, unpruned vines can rapidly grow to an unmanageable size with fruit only being produced at the outer edges. I’ve seen this sort of situation in a few backyards (okay one them was mine but I’d just moved in) and it’s not pretty.
In a vineyard, one of the most important decisions that you can make is how many of these fruitful buds you should keep. Leave too many and the shoot growth may be weak as the energy is spread out over a large area. When this happens too much fruit is produced, and it is unable to fully ripen. Leave too few and the resulting shoots may be overly vigorous — producing more leaves and an oversized canopy — instead of channeling the energy into ripening fruit.
As in everything else related to winemaking, balance is everything.