With all the time lost in December and january to the torrential rains and getting our basic living accommodation in a habitable state, I’ve been keen to get on with pruning the large number of vines on the quinta. Last year we were only here for 2 weeks in January and I was only able to spur prune a handful of vines without really much of a clue as to what I was doing. I didn’t kill them though, so armed with that knowledge and a few techniques learned at a recent garden open-day in Barril de Alva, we’ve set about tackling the vines in earnest before the warming weather starts the sap rising.
With so many vines to do, it’s not really been possible to adhere to the bio-dynamic calendar, so we have just been proceeding on a daily basis for the last week. In any case, I’m not sure what days vine pruning should be done on. Most people say fruit days, but to my way of thinking, you’d want the vine’s energy concentrated in its roots if you’re going to be hacking large chunks off it above ground, so I’d be inclined to prune on a root day.
We’ve been using a fairly pragmatic version of the French Double Guyot pruning method – cutting each vine back to 2 main growing shoots of 7 nodes with a side spur of 3 – to bring the vines back under some semblance of structure and control, tying them back in to the 3-wire trellis that supports them. Many don’t show much evidence of having been pruned in a few years and growth has become chaotic, strangling nearby fruit trees or pushing out through terrace walls at root level. Some vines have vigour and strength enough to carry more than 2 main growing shoots. Some are weak and have been pruned back to a single shoot. In many cases, we’ve had to take them back to the 2 year-old wood to remove excess growth, but will sacrifice a heavy crop this year for a bit more order and core strength in the vines. Good wine vintages are produced in solar maximum years – the years of greatest sunspot activity – and since 2011 is projected to be the next solar maximum, it seems a good idea to prepare for that this year. Not that we have any pretences in respect of producing quality wine …
To tie the vines in to the supporting wires, we’ve used the traditional method from this area, rather than modern plastic ties. Many people in the area grow and pollard willow for this purpose, but our willow tree has not been pollarded and shoots of a suitable size are in short supply. However we have found lots of dogwood growing, and have used this instead as the shoots have flexibility equal to willow.
We are now about half way through the vine pruning, with only the entire periphery of the bottom terrace and vineyard left to do.