It’s good to remember that vines have been growing by themselves a very long time before man discovered how wonderful fermented berry juice tasted. Long before the trellising of poles and wires the vines made use of other trees and their branches to climb their way to the sun lighted perimeter of the forests where they could get more energy than in the shade. This tendency, called positive phototropism, makes the plant grow in length, endlessly searching for the sunniest spot. Interesting enough, wild vines produce more fruit when their shoots are well exposed to the sun.
In addition, if let alone, the vine’s strength or vigor would be distributed on too many buds resulting in small shoots and clusters that may work for the plant but not for our purpose of making the best wine.
Therefore, since the beginning of viticulture, the practice of pruning has been key to getting vigorous growth and a desired crop each year. It is easier saying it than doing it though, because a good pruning practice composes a delicate balance between the plant vigor, given by the soil, root system and available water, and the number and position of buds left for the plant to grow.
Now, how many buds, then, are preferred? Well, this is where experience plays a crucial role, especially when someone knows the history of the vineyard since its planting date. So, there needs to be as many buds as necessary to get a decent crop, but not too many so the shoots shade each other during the season. Just enough buds so the plant’s vigor is well distributed…is a tricky equation!
At Fall Creek Vineyards, we are starting the pruning a little late because this way the plants will wake up later, giving them a better chance of skipping late freezes. As mentioned on previous posts, winter cold has been enough to expect a good and even bud burst this coming spring. We’ll keep you posted with the developments!
Fall Creek Vineyards
Director of Winemaking