Hans at bud rubbing & desuckering, shoot thinning and wire lifting
As another cycle unfolds, the anticipation for Vintage 2024 steadily builds within our bustling vineyard. The awakening of the vines during the early days of September brought about the vibrant spectacle of Budburst, swiftly evolving into a flurry of shoots that beckoned the meticulous art of thinning to maintain the perfect balance in the canopy. Spring's unpredictable temperament, with its blend of warm days, brisk winds, and intermittent showers, keeps both the vines and the grass thriving, leaving no room for breaks in Hans's schedule. While this intensive labour might not be the norm for many wineries, we stand unwavering, knowing that there are no shortcuts in our pursuit of cultivating the most robust, aromatic, and robust grapes, ultimately destined to craft the finest wines.
Now, imagine this labour-intensive process. Every single vine is carefully scrutinized, with precise measures taken to remove the end shoots of each cane. It tugs at the heart to detach the strongest, already fruit-laden shoots, ensuring a balanced nutrient flow to the remaining fruitful ones. We meticulously tend to the so-called 'head' to ensure optimal canopy health and meticulously assess and remove any unfruitful shoots, bending and tending to 40,000 vines until we achieve an ideal, well-ventilated canopy that naturally resists diseases and yields a crop of perfect concentration.
However, the growth spurts are not limited to the canes alone; they persist on the trunk and just above the roots. To maintain the plant's vigour and ensure the allocation of nutrients to the vital shoots and upcoming grapes on the fruitful canes, diligent bud rubbing and desuckering become essential tasks.
As we continue the delicate process of shoot thinning, the curious phenomenon of some of our grape varieties comes to light. Both Montepulciano and Nebbiolo may reach their peak ripeness simultaneously, yet the Nebbiolo boasts 40cm-long shoots while the Montepulciano lags behind at a modest 5cm.
Amidst this ceaseless spring growth, we diligently provide protection and stability to the burgeoning shoots within the canopy, safeguarding them against the vigorous spring gusts that sweep through the vineyards of Marlborough. Consequently, we find ourselves raising the first wire on both sides of the vines to foster a secure environment for the flourishing vines.
And to all our curious visitors, feel free to jump in and experience the magic firsthand! There's always room for a helping hand in our vibrant vineyard community.
Want to know more in detail?
More about shoot thinning & bud rubbing, typical done in October to early November
Clusters are borne on shoots that emerge from the buds retained during pruning. Shoot thinning is thus the second opportunity to regulate crop yield.
Shoot thinning and bud rubbing, typically conducted from October to early November, play pivotal roles in the intricate art of vineyard management. During shoot thinning, careful considerations are made to selectively remove shoots originating from non-spur positions, the head region, or the trunk. This meticulous process aims to foster a balanced ratio between fruit and foliage, encourage optimal light and air penetration, and minimize the risk of diseases. Additionally, it facilitates a quicker drying process for leaves and fruit, along with enhanced spray penetration, if required.
Impacts on fruit quality
Impacts on fruit quality following shoot thinning reveal an elevation in Brix and pH levels, accompanied by potential increases in berry skin phenolics and anthocyanins. These effects stem from the harmonious combination of managed crop levels and amplified sunlight exposure within the canopy and on the fruit.
Bud rubbing serves the purpose of maintaining the cleanliness of the trunk, preventing any unwelcome competition for nutrients from vigorous shoots that may emerge along the stem. Equally, desuckering involves the removal of water sprouts and suckers, with the latter arising beneath the root collar, directly from the roots, or the lowest part of the stem.
More about wire lifting, typically from October to December
Since the grapevine is a true vine and is not self-supporting like a tree, it needs a vine training system. Our vineyard employs a trellis system, consisting of posts and wires. The trellis system is firmly anchored in the ground to support the strain in the wire due to the weight of the crop, the vines, and any wind stresses. At intervals of 7 metre (called a ‘bay’) along the row are intermediate posts which help to carry the weight. In our close planted vineyard 6 to 8 vines are planted within a ‘bay’ with either one or two canes, the fruiting canes, which are clipped to a fix wire. From each cane grow out up to five vertical shoots. Without any assistance, the shoots would grow in every direction and eventually be weighed down by the fruit. Once the shoots have been thinned, we walk along the entire length of each row (100 to 300 meters) and lift two sets of movable wires up to variously spaced clips on both sides of each post, in effect sandwiching the vines vertically. This process is repeated three times as the vines grow.
This image vividly captures the impressive strength shown by the last shoot of each cane, highlighting the meticulous efforts invested in nurturing our vineyard's thriving ecosystem.