Pruning: A Winter Vineyard Task

Portrait of Nick Borland, wine tour guide
Nick Borland
August 2, 2021

After the harvest, the vine is carefully pruned in order to preserve its fertility and to shape the next harvest. From a botanical point of view, the vine is a « woody tree climber » and if it weren’t pruned it would continue to grow.

In commercial grape production, vines are trained and pruned upright onto a trellis support structure. This enables the vine to retain a similar shape year after year in order to facilitate cultural operations including harvest.

Grapevines produce fruit clusters on the previous season’s growth (two-year and older wood is not fruitful). Before pruning, a grapevine may have 200 to 300 buds which are capable of producing fruit so, during pruning, one removes buds that would otherwise become new shoots, with new clusters in the spring.

By regulating the total number of buds, one is concentrating growth into remaining shoots and clusters. If the vine is left unpruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive and the grapevine would be unable to ripen the large crop or sustain adequate vegetative growth.

Furthermore, pruning can improve bud fruitfulness by bud selection and placement by selecting healthy wood with plump bubs that have been exposed to sunlight.

Therefore, the purpose of pruning is to obtain maximum yields of high-quality grapes and to allow adequate vegetative growth for the following season.

pruning and burning shootsSome estates choose to pre-prune which helps clear the trunk of the vine by removing excess canes and thus facilitating the task of pruning. And of course, the task itself is conferred to the experienced worker as only an expert’s well-trained eye will be able to select the canes and buds which will bear the next harvest.

After the secateurs have passed, the pruned shoots stay attached to the wires supporting the vines and they are then removed, gathered up and burned in special burners. This is the reason why the visitor to the wine growing region in winter will see plumes of smoke dotted all over the vineyards.

The burners also have the added advantage of keeping the vineyard workers warm as they carry out their tasks in the often freezing temperatures!

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Portrait of Nick Borland, wine tour guide

About Nick

My professional experience in wine and tourism has been long and varied and has included, amongst others, working as a wine buyer and sommelier for boutique hotels, putting together wine lists for restaurants, a specialised wine tour guide for luxury hotel barges, a « wine hunter » for Scandinavian importers as well as organising and conducting wine-tastings to Wine Societies in the UK, Germany and Holland. I have also completed my WSET Level 3 and and obtained a certificate in Advanced Tasting Techniques from the Wine University in Suze-la-Rousse". I love sharing my knowledge of wine and spirits with people interested in the topics. I have a passion for how wine is made, from the methods used to the history of the grapes. If you would like to learn more about wine, join me in my Facebook group by signing up below to using the form. I talk about wines, answer all the questions you may have about it growing techniques, history, and even organise webinars for the group members where I talk about wine in a bit more detail. Hope to welcome you there soon!
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