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Viewing entries tagged
spring

Canopy Management

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Canopy Management

Although it’s the middle of Spring, it feels like Summer to me - my Autumn trip through the US has de-acclimatized me. I’ve donned shorts and hat to work out in the vines, and the heat is pressing in on me. It is radiating off the vines causing everything to shimmer with a living curtain of green and yellow.

I am “suckering” or “shoot thinning” – removing unproductive shoots that are not bearing fruit, as well as closely-spaced shoots that are preventing air and light from reaching the vine. At this point in the vine’s lifecycle, dormant buds along the trunk and cordon have “pushed” and are growing vigorously. Their vegetative growth diverts the energy of the vine away from ripening the fruit, so by shoot thinning I am refocusing the vine’s energy back into the grape clusters.

Shaded leaves are less than one tenth as effective as exposed ones. So by removing unnecessary shoots, I am allowing greater light to reach the leaves, thereby increasing their efficacy. Removal of these excess shoots allows filtered light to penetrate deep into the clusters, which further helps the grapes to develop flavor. It also allows for airflow amongst the clusters, which reduces mildew pressure.

I am also removing water shoots, which grow from the wood of the stem as well as infertile shoots that lack visible inflorescences. And when two or more shoots grow from one bud, I retain the strongest, or the one that has a grape cluster. At this early stage it is possible to rub the shoots off, or to pull them off without causing any damage. Later in the season, this work will require a sharp blade.

When shoot thinning, it is imperative to avoid removing those buds needed for next year’s growth. Thus each decision requires careful attention and an understanding of what is actually growing. As with everything in the vineyard, each action has a consequence, intended or otherwise, well into the future. You can probably understand why I’m drawn to the philosophy that “less is more”.

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Out in the Rain, Again

I’m out in the rain again. I just have to see for myself – all this driving rain has had to have an impact. And so I’m walking through the Chardonnay, inspecting leaves and bunches. Overnight the leaf cover seems to have doubled in volume. Everything looks to be in top shape, with the exception of a few scattered leaves with tiny rips in them.  Was that caused by wind and rain?

The block I’m replanting is mostly soggy. I stay on the higher ground and replace about fifty plants. The rain intensifies and the wind starts to sting and then hailstones are snapping against my neck. I take cover under an ancient Peppermint tree and when it passes walk to the mini lake in the middle of the block. Everything is underwater and rain is forecast for several weeks to come. In a moment of desperation/inspiration I poke a dozen cuttings deep into the water, like I’m planting rice in a paddy. My bet is that the block will dry out and that they will take root. We’ll see.

The Chardonnay leaves have that vibrant early green color that only comes in the first flush of Springtime. They almost shimmer in the rain. They’ve survived this tiny fusillade of hail, the imperious gusting of wind, the relentless pounding of rain. They are way more resilient than I expected they would be, and are thriving.

And now the first flush of budburst is gripping the Malbec as well. Roused by the energy of Spring, this part of the vineyard is wakening. The smallest of leaves are emerging, delicate and perfectly formed. They are so different in aspect and color and energy and in the way they unfold from the Chardonnay, literally two meters away...

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