Training and pruning

As you can see, we are a little behind in our blogging this year (… is it really August already?!).  My only excuse is that we’ve had a lot on the go in the vineyard these past 6 months and now, we are already well into our growing season!! But, before I begin posting about that, I’d like to just quickly jump us back to February when we began training and pruning the vineyard for the first time.

Because there is such a vast variety of training methods to choose from, the task of selecting one for your own vineyard can be daunting – and this certainly was the case for us!  The method selected is far more important than you may think – it is not simply a job of keeping the vines from dangling on the ground. Many dozens of different training techniques have been developed throughout time and across the globe, some of which have been in use for centuries, such as gobelet, and some for just decades, such as Scott Henry and Smart Dyson. Basically, the different methods can assist you in, to provide some examples, controlling vigorous vines that produce too much foliage and not enough fruit, increasing exposure of the foliage to light, improving the air movement through the leaf canopy and thus reducing the risk of mildew or rot, or simply making it easier for you when it comes time to prune or harvest. Many of these concerns are part of canopy management, a relatively new term which refers to how the architecture of the leaf canopy can be altered and manipulated in order to beneficially influence the microclimate around the vine.

As we are basically the first to grow vines for wine here in the Chilliwack area, we spent a lot of time considering multiple factors in order to select the appropriate method. In the end, the method we chose for training our vines is called the Guyot system, which is a traditional vertical shoot positioning system that was named after Dr Jules Guyot, a 19th century French scientist (Yes, I do my research!).  Training and pruning is so complex, especially when you are trying to learn from reading rather than having someone actually show you! But, basically, this system involves training one or two fruiting arms along a main wire. There are two different methods to this system: single or double Guyot. Whether you use the single or double method really depends upon your grape variety and many of the other factors mentioned above. For us, we decided to try the traditional double Guyot system for our Pinot Gris.

Pinot Gris - Double Guyot System

Pinot Gris – Double Guyot System

We also thought that next year we would try to use the spur pruning method for this variety, so while we were pruning this year we tried our best to select the strongest and best situated canes that could ultimately remain in place as the permanent cordon along the fruiting wire.

Pinot Gris - Spur pruned

Pinot Gris – Selecting and training the permanent cordon

For our other hybrid varieties, including Seyval Blanc, L’Acadie, and Epicure, we decided to use the single Guyot method. It was intended that we would use cane pruning for these varieties, which in short means that rather than having a permanent cordon, each year we will need to select a new shoot to train along the fruiting wire.

L'Acadie - Single Guyot System

L’Acadie – Single Guyot System

As this is our first year, we simply had to make a choice and begin pruning and training, even though we had little concrete assurance that what we are doing is actually the appropriate method for our vineyard site, climate, and varieties.

One thing we did discover right away was that, beginning in late February, we had left training and pruning a little too late. This task took us much longer than we thought it would, and even though we finished by mid-March, many of the vines were already gearing up for spring and a lot of liquid was seeping or ‘bleeding’ from where we cut. Although this bleeding is technically not harmful for the vine, the seeping can last up to 2 weeks. For us, it did end up effecting some of our vines as the sap continued to flow and then jellify over the new spring buds below. Next year, we’ll begin this process much earlier and will work on finding some techniques to prevent these negative effects from bleeding to happen again.

But, all this learning part of the adventure!! Right?!

In regard to the training and pruning, after this first year when we will allow the vines to produce grapes, we will be able to see first-hand how successful they were. We can then sit down to assess and revise our selected methods as we see fit. Until then… we have to just wait and see!

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