Winter is coming… ⛄️

As the first chills cast over the vines, we witness the winter transformation of the vineyard. The leaves, that have been working all throughout the spring, summer and fall converting sunlight into delicious nutrition for the vine and grapes, start to fall. Now that most of the vine activity has stopped and all the glory of the vine has transformed into a skeleton of wood, it is time to start preparing the vineyard for the next growing season.

http://minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/wild_grape.html
https://decanter.com

When can I start? 📆

In general you can start pruning right after all of the leaves have fallen from the vine. This indicates that the productivity in the vine has stopped, and it’s going into its dormant phase. You have time until somewhere in February — March (or even later depending on your location) when temperatures start to rise and activity in the plant is resumed. Pruning the vine during bud burst does involve some risk because you could damage upcoming shoots and cause cane “bleeding” where it loses active nutrition veins.

  1. I did experience some issues with ripening the grapes in time for harvest. At the end of the growing season, I noticed that not all grapes were fully grown and optimal for wine production. However, as the temperatures were dropping and rain was coming down on us, we made the decision to harvest the grapes anyway.

Let’s do this 😍

Take care of the young ones, you need! 🍼

If you are dealing with one-year-old plants, it is important to establish a stable trunk. So during the winter we will be cutting everything just below your first trellis line. All side branches on the main trunk are also removed. We should still leave a small number of buds on the main trunk which will burst and grow during the upcoming growing season. Don’t be scared, it seems like quite a drastic approach to cut so much of a young plant, but we want it to focus its energy on developing its trunk, not yet on growing our delicious grapes. Patience my friend, patience is key in maintaining a vineyard. This process is repeated every winter until you have a stable trunk which usually after 2–3 growing seasons.

Some TLC for the workhorses of the vineyard 👐

Now that the young ones are taken care of, it is times to take care of the other vines. They have working hard during the growing season and now require some maintenance to prepare them for the upcoming season.

Guyot Pruning

As mentioned above we will be discussing two popular pruning methods. The first one is the Guyot method also referred as cane pruning. This pruning method is believed to result in the best yield, but it also is the one with the highest impact on the quality of the grapes as it puts some stress on the plant. As you will notice in its explanation, the pruning method is based on cutting away almost ALL of the one-year-old shoots, except for a couple that will be further developed during the upcoming season. As you can imagine this puts a lot of responsibility on the vine as the growth of next years fruit shoots are resting on the one-year-old cane that is saved from pruning.

Guyot before pruning
Guyot after pruning

Cordon Pruning

A second pruning method is called Cordon and belongs to what is called spur pruning. The general concept of this method is to establish 1 or 2 very established and stable base canes, called cordon. The cordon itself is almost never pruned throughout the lifespan of the vine. During the winter, each set of fruit shoot is reduced to a spur containing two or three buds that will provide the shoots for next season. As you notice, the main difference with the Guyot method is that we do not prune the base canes (cordons) and only the fruit shoots.

Cordon before pruning
Cordon after pruning

Which one should I choose? 💭

This is, of course, THE big question and I think it depends on the several characteristics of your vineyard such as:

  • Characteristics of the vine — Some varieties tend to prefer one method over the other.
  • Climate — Climate has an effect on several fronts. Meteorological phenomena such as rainfall and temperature do have an impact on the vine. In some cases climate characteristics can cause the right conditions for diseases to develop on the vine.
  • Soil composition — Based on the composition of your soil your vines can benefit from having a nutrient storage system like cordons.

TL;DR

Why?

  • Shaping of the vine
  • Optimize the nutrient flow of the vine and therefore the quality of the grapes

When?

  • Starting from the time that the leaves have fallen and before bud bursting
  • Not during frost periods

How?

  • Make sure that vine first develops a stable trunk, this can take a couple of years. If this is the case, remove everything right below before the first trellis line and remove all side branches from the trunk but keeping couple of buds.
  • Guyot (Cane pruning) — Remove the cane that hosts this year’s fruit shoots and replace it by a new cane that will host next season’s fruit canes. Develop 2 or 3 new replacement canes to use for next year.
  • Cordon (Spur pruning) — Reduce all this year’s fruit shoots to spurs (shoot with 2 buds) and keep 2 permanent canes (cordon) for the spurs to grow on.

An IT architect with a very big interest in technology. In my spare time I am indulging myself into the world of viti- and viniculture