Sunday, July 24, 2011

Note To Vineyardisto: Next Year Trim the Vines Before the Jungle

One vineyard manager says not to hedge your vines because it promotes lateral growth while other vineyardistos hedge their vines. Then there's Pete Anderson whose answer to most vineyard questions is, "It depends" and I'm appreciating the wisdom of his phrase as I gain more experience each year. I let the vines grow nicely this year and given ample winter rains withheld water (not only to conserve our precious wet resource but to slow the vines) and thinned lateral shoots from the fruiting zone.  As summer arrived and temperatures rose I figured the longer shoots facing sunset would protect grapes from blistering afternoon sunshine so I let them grow.  In fact, they offered too much protection as the vines grew long and thick they blocked not only the sun but flowing air and despite the best efforts of spraying every three weeks, and given the fact that neither neighbors Merlot Mike nor Coyote Karen on the very same spraying regimen have not one spot of mildew on their grapes, we have incubated mildew galore in the jungle areas. Armed with clippers in the pocket and hedgers in hand that put less repetitive stress on these aging joints, I snip, I trim, I cut, I hack and the Queen says the vineyard looks beautiful and I don't disagree and the purpling grapes have been opened up to airflow and sunshine and I make a note to not let the vines grow out of control next year as the Queen starts singing a song about how I should pick up the cuttings.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the statement that to hedge "depends". It depends on a number of factors including vine variety, climate, soils, weather, etc.

Of course, if one has a vigorous vine one can spend years manipulate spacing and trellis systems to seek that perfect balanced combination where tipping, hedging and other similar greenwork is not needed. But at the end of the day (or years), the only question is, did it really improve the quality of the wine? (A secondary question is which was more work -- since time is money).

Laterals are not necessarily bad, but again "it depends". If one hedges laterals help provide for a balanced leaf age in the canopy (leaves slowly decline in their photosynthetic output after reaching maturity). Hedging at the right time means laterals will provide a younger leaf age structure closer to the clusters just before harvest, improving total sugar. But they also may increase pH. If your brix is normally okay but the grapes tend to run high on pH then some degree of lateral growth may need to be discouraged.

As for the cuttings, normally they are simply left to mulch in the row where cut as the leaf pull and hedging is normally done before the stems are woody.

Craig Justice said...

Great information, thanks. In this vineyard, pH has been under control, but I'm going to keep the information in mind. About the green trimmings, alas, the Queen's priority is a "clean" vineyard. (She wants to see the snakes before she steps on them.)