Vineyard pruning update

by / Thursday, 07 April 2016 / Published in Uncategorized
Denbies spring 014 Credit Martin Cox
  • Vines have undergone winter pruning and are now lying dormant for the winter. Vineyard Manager Duncan McNeill gives us an overview of our current pruning techniques on Denbies Estate:

“There are two main themes to our pruning, which have been developed over the last few years:

  • Pruning for quality as opposed to high yield
  • Pruning the vines ‘gently’ so as to prolong their productive lifespan, and to allow them to physically mature in stature which adds to the complexity of the wine.

Yield vs quality;

Many vineyards in the UK prune to a ‘cane replacement’ system, where two fruit bearing canes are retained on the vine every year. This is very much a ‘New World’ practice, used in places where the vines are often drip irrigated AND the summer temperatures are very warm.

At Denbies we prune to ‘cane replacement’ but only retain 1 fruiting cane on the vines. This is more akin to the practices in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, where drip irrigation is used far less often and yields are regulated. The reason for pruning to 1 fruiting cane at Denbies is that I have found that this practice offers the best balance of (i) Yield consistency and (ii) fruit quality.

Previously where vines were pruned to 2 canes there had been years where very high yields were produced, but in out shorter growing season the sugar accumulation (and flavour development) was marginal.

By pruning to 1 cane the energy that the vine generates via photosynthesis is distributed to the following organs within the plant:

  • Fruit
  • Shoots & leaves
  • Trunk (for expansion)
  • Roots (for expansion)

When maximising the yield via pruning to 2 canes, there is only enough energy generated for fruit and foliage – and nothing left for trunk and roots. This is short termist management and will not lead to longevity of the vines OR improved fruit quality with age.

Pruning ‘Gently’:

A less aggressive system of pruning has been resurrected by two Italian vine growers, and is rapidly spreading across Europe. It was originally developed in France in the early 1900’s, but became forgotten – only to now be re-introduced. It is known as ‘Preparatora D’uva’ which translated into English as Gentle Pruning.

Essentially, pruning cuts (wounds) to the vine are kept as small as possible, and made only to young wood rather than to older more established parts of the vine.

By pruning ‘gently’ we can prolong the life of the vines and improve the quality of the fruit as the vines mature in age and physical size.