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Winter in the Winery - Part One: Vineyard

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

When do winemakers actually go on holiday? Sure, autumn is out of the question - the grape harvest is the largest work peak in viticulture. In summer, caring for the vineyards demands a lot of time. And in spring, the market flourishes: traders want to taste the new vintage, contracts are signed. That leaves only winter - doesn't it? Not quite, because there is plenty of work even then!

Besides the work in the office and in the cellar, the vineyard is very busy in winter. The vines themselves are in winter dormancy - it is not until spring that life returns to the plants with budbreak (from mid-March / early April). The winegrowers use this dormant phase to make their vineyards fit for the new vintage. With pruning, they set the course for yields and quality. The challenge is to find the right balance between quantity and quality. This requires a lot of know-how and time-consuming manual work. Each vine is examined in order to select one or two canes from all the shoots that have grown in the previous vegetation period (replacement cane pruning). From each bud of these canes, a new shoot will develop in spring, which will bear grapes in autumn. How exactly you prune your vines depends on many factors: Location, soil type, planting density, grape variety and, above all, the grapegrower's experience play an important role. Once the vines have been pruned, the old wood must also be removed from the trellis system - a demanding task that can only be done by machines in flat vineyards. As a final step, shortly before budbreak, in March at the latest, the canes are bent and tied to the trellis. In addition, the winegrowers think about how they can avoid frost damage, take care of the soil management and plan which vineyards will be cleared in order to replant them later. So, it is definitely not boring in the winter vineyard!

Apart from the above-mentioned pruning of one or two canes (also called Guyot), there are of course other ways of pruning vines - you want to know more about it? The WSET Level 3 course covers different types of pruning and different trellising systems!


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