After leaf fall, vines go into a dormant period and while they are sleeping we sneak up on them and prune them. Armed only with secateurs our trusty pruners lop off most of that year’s growth.
In the wild, grapevines are woody tree climbers. Left to its own devices a vine will attach itself with tendrils to any upright, and grow up to 35 meters. This makes it inconvenient to tend. Vineyards prefer vines to be regimentally trained onto trellising, with a reduced height of about 2 meters. All areas of the vine can then be accessed.
Although it looks brutal to cut off so much of the vine such ruthlessness helps it to produce better grapes. Only a few canes with a few buds are left after pruning and this means that the vine can concentrate all its energy on those. The pruners can choose which cane to leave and which cane to lose, so only the best canes with the best position are selected. We look for lovely healthy wood with plump little bulbs enjoying the sunshine. Every vine is different and each vine is pruned by hand with a skilled pruner deciding what would suit it best.
There are lots of ways of pruning and trellising, but our vines are double guiyot. In winter we cut most of the canes off, leaving just 2 canes and 2 spurs. Then we tie them to the trellis. It may look like torture but the vine really benefits from the remodeling. We burn all the pruned wood so that we don’t build up any disease in the vineyard and the goodness from the ash goes back into the vineyard.
When the vines wake up in the Spring they discover their make-over and burst into life.