Journal | February 19, 2019
Winegrowers don’t agree on much, but we all unhesitatingly profess our love for pruning. Pruning is the most creative and fun task in the vineyard. It marks our re-awakening from winter slumber. It is our opportunity to intimately connect with each individual vine and simultaneously get a feel for the health status of each block.
Each vine is assessed regarding both form and function. Uniformity of form is critical. In the hands of undisciplined pruners, vines can quickly morph into unconventional and unintended shapes and dimensions. While these vines are well suited for artistic photographs, they make managing a vineyard difficult, time consuming, and expensive.
Function is more straightforward. Each vine’s growth is evaluated. The number, diameter, and length of last year’s canes tell a story. Did the vine struggle to fill the trellis space allotted to it, or conversely, was last year’s growth too exuberant and unconstrained? This observation guides the pruner’s decision as to how many buds to retain, determining the coming season’s potential yield.
Each bud retained will produce one shoot with two clusters of grapes. The pruner determines each individual vine’s capacity to ripen a pre-determined quantity of grapes by retaining a corresponding number of buds. All these decisions, pruning cuts, and pulling canes off the trellis wires take about three minutes per vine. That doesn’t sound like much until you multiply by 30,000 vines.