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!