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Don't Drink and Prune: How craft production techniques improve wine quality

Don't Drink and Prune: How craft production techniques improve wine quality

 

As a craft wine ambassador, I can’t stress enough the importance of pruning vines. 

 

This might seem irrelevant (I mean it’s just pruning right)? However it’s one of the most important aspects of wine making and one which is greatly overlooked by many of the companies who mass produce wine, but it can literally be the different between a good and a great wine. 

 

Pruning is a crucial task that you must perform every year to maintain the health and productivity of your vines. Pruning is a technique that involves the removal of unwanted parts of the grapevine to promote healthy growth and maximise fruit production. In this article, I will explain the best ways of maintaining a grapevine with precision, highlighting the importance of pruning, the best time to prune grapevines, the tools and techniques required for pruning, and common mistakes to avoid.

 

Why is pruning important for grapevines?

Pruning is essential for grapevines because it helps to regulate the yield of grapes, maintain the shape and size of the vine, and promote the growth of healthy shoots. Grapevines are vigorous growers, and if left unpruned, they can become tangled and overgrown, leading to a reduced yield of grapes. Pruning also helps to remove dead, diseased, or damaged wood, which can harbour pests and diseases that can damage the vine.

Another reason why pruning is important for grapevines is that it helps to balance the canopy of the vine. A well-balanced canopy ensures that there is adequate sunlight and air movement throughout the vine, which promotes healthy growth and prevents the development of fungal diseases. Pruning also helps to stimulate the growth of new wood, which can lead to a larger crop of grapes in the following year. Knowing if, when and how much to prune the vine comes from experience and closely observing the vines. 

 

When to prune grapevines

The best time to prune grapevines is during the dormant season, which is usually between December and March, depending on your location. Pruning during this period is ideal because the leaves have fallen, and the vines are not actively growing, making it easier to see the structure of the vine. Pruning during the dormant season also reduces the risk of damage to the vine, as there is less sap flow, making it less vulnerable to disease and pests.

 

Understanding the grapevine growth cycle

To prune grapevines effectively, it is essential to understand the grapevine growth cycle. Grapevines go through three stages of growth: bud break, flowering, and fruit development. During bud break, new shoots emerge from the buds on the vine. The flowering stage is when the grapevine produces flowers that eventually develop into grapes. The fruit development stage is when the grapes begin to mature and ripen.

 

Tools needed for pruning grapevines

To prune grapevines, you will need a few essential tools, including pruning shears, loppers, a hand saw, and a pruning saw. Pruning shears are ideal for removing small wood up to 1 inch in diameter, while loppers are ideal for removing larger wood up to 2 inches in diameter. A hand saw is ideal for removing wood up to 4 inches in diameter, while a pruning saw is ideal for removing larger wood up to 8 inches in diameter.

 

Techniques for pruning grapevines - how to prune grapes, trimming grape vines, training grape vines

There are several techniques for pruning grapevines, including how to prune grapes, trimming grape vines, and training grape vines. The technique you use will depend on the type of grapevine you have and the desired shape and size of the vine.

To prune grapes, start by removing all of the wood that grew during the previous year, leaving only two to three buds on each cane. This technique helps to promote new growth and ensures that the vine produces a good crop of grapes in the following year.

Trimming grapevines involves removing any unwanted or overgrown wood from the vine to maintain its shape and size. This technique is ideal for maintaining the structure of the vine and ensuring that it remains healthy and productive.

Training grapevines involves guiding the growth of the vine to achieve a specific shape or size. This technique is ideal for creating a trellis system, where the vine is trained to grow along a wire or other support structure. 

 

Tips for pruning old or overgrown grapevines

If you have an old or overgrown grapevine, pruning can be a bit more challenging, but it is still possible to restore the vine to health. To prune an old or overgrown grapevine, start by removing any dead or diseased wood, followed by any unwanted or overgrown wood. Next, select several strong canes and cut them back to the desired length, leaving only two to three buds on each cane. This technique helps to promote new growth and ensures that the vine produces a good crop of grapes in the following year.

 

Common mistakes to avoid when pruning grapevines

One of the most common mistakes people make when pruning grapevines is removing too much wood, which can lead to a reduced yield of grapes. Another mistake is cutting the wood too close to the buds, which can damage the vine and increase the risk of disease and pests. To avoid these mistakes, it is essential to use the right tools and techniques and to prune the vine carefully and methodically.

 

 

Conclusion - Don't Drink and Prune!

Pruning grapevines is an essential task that every grapevine enthusiast must perform to maintain the health and productivity of their vines. By understanding the grapevine growth cycle, using the right tools and techniques, and avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure that your grapevine produces a good crop of grapes year after year. There are no shortcuts as this has to be done by hand, guided by experience. This is the main difference with craft wine production, compared to mass-produced wines, and this can be tasted in the wines. 

 

So, the next time you're pruning your grapevine, remember to take your time, stay focused, and, most importantly, Don't Drink and Prune!

 

Happy pruning!

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