During the dormant phase of grapevines, pruning is an essential practice that establishes the starting point for the next growing season. The objective is to control the shape of the vine for air circulation and sun exposure to best ensure the quantity of fruit.
Vines are a creeping plant which has vigorous growth and needs to be carefully controlled. If left unmanaged vines will grow a large dense canopy with way too much fruit that will never ripen with little to no sun exposure. To manage vines, most are trained to grow onto a trellising system of wires held across posts creating rows. Once the vines are trained onto the trellis it is pruned during the cold months of winter. During this time the vines are in a dormant state where they survive on reserved carbohydrates in the woody stems and are bare of leaves. While dormant the old growth is cut back leaving selected buds on first-year growth that will grow the next season’s foliage and fruit. Trellising and pruning are essential practices in achieving air circulation and sun exposure that is so vital for quality fruit.
There are many techniques on how to prune and train a vine where the vigour of the cultivar, climate, soil and age of the vine will be taken into consideration. At the most simple, vines are either spur or cane trained, these terms refer to the different forms the vine’s shoots are trained to grow. Both methods have the trunk of the vine that grows straight up from the roots and over many years will get very thick, just like a tree. Spur training then trains a long-term shoot from the trunk onto the trellis which will also thicken, called a cordon. From the cordon, spurs will grow at an even spacing, and from these canes are pruned to the number of buds for the next season’s growth. There are many forms spur training can take, which are mostly identified by the number and shape of the cordons.
Cane pruning, traditionally called Guyot, does not have a cordon, a cane is trained to grow directly from the trunk onto the trellis wire. This cane has the identified number of buds which will grow the next season’s growth. Again, there are many systems in this pruning identified by the shape. Spur pruning is traditionally used to grow quality wine grapes, with cane pruning used in select conditions.
At Paserene, the vineyards are in three distinct regions, cool Elgin, moderate Franschhoek and hot Tulbagh. Each one grows carefully considered cultivars that require a combination of knowledge and wisdom in ensuring the optimum pruning plan. Pruning can look like a rough practice, but it invigorates the vine when the growing season starts with budburst.
Martin Smith, Paserene’s winemaker, is passionate about achieving the balance between shape and quantity through wise vineyard management to grow the quality fruit of the luxury handcrafted wines.