Pruning and Grafting a vine

“And the vineyard tutor shouted: “Noooo! Not that one..!

Well, she actually said so, every time I was about to cut off a branch. However, in the end, I did manage to understand why I should have decided on one or another, rather than the branches I have originally chosen.”

This was not a Winenium wine tasting tour, but a field trip to learn about the basics and the steps required to grow a healthy vineyard; these are steps prior to drinking your wine.

There are loads of factors to be considered when planting a vineyard: the size and shape of the plot of land, the direction of the prevailing wind, the type of grape, etc.

The purpose of pruning is to allow light and wind to pass freely through the branches encouraging proper grape development, avoiding shade and therefore, fungus. When pruning, there are other elements which must be taken into account: The number of branches allowed to remain, depend on the sort of grape as there are quota restrictions, which must reflect the size of the planting plot.

Grafting classPruning is done during winter as the vine lays dormant; usually from November until March is the perfect time for a trim. In spring it starts to wake up as the sap begins to circulate from roots to the top and it an ideal period for a further prune (a green trim) if required. The sap surfaces out to seal the damage made by the cuts received in winter in a form of watery drops.

“Yes, the vines cry up to 4 litres during this period.”

Although vines are terribly tolerant, it is important to concentrate and remove the correct branches off to maintain its structure either in the form of a vase (a bush-like shape), a lateral (one arm) or unilateral in “T” shape (two arms).

Grafting a vineKeep the lower growth closer to the main trunk, whilst making sure the vertical shoots are removed leaving 2 buds on. The shorter the vine remains from the ground (2 feet) the easier it will be for its sap to move freely and effortlessly from root to leaves.

Grafting is a step previous to planting the vine. This was and still is the only solution to the nasty Phylloxera insect which reached all vineyards worldwide during the 1800’s, with exception of Chile in South America and Lanzaronte island in the Canary Islands of Spain, which managed not to be affected by it.

The bug would cling to the trunk as it feeds from the vine roots stopping the flow of water from the vine and therefore, sucking the life out of it. The only solution against this, is grafting our European vines to a phylloxera-resistant American foot. Their roots are longer and wider than those of their European cousins, therefore very strong to withstand this nasty bug.

grapevine chart

“It was fantastic to learn a little more on this subject first hand and in the field. The only way to actually remember is to do and practice and practice makes perfect! Or so the tutor hopes…”