2011 Pruning

May 1st, 2011

The long process of preparing the vines for the coming years vintage is now well advanced at English Oak. As our regular visitors will know, we Cane Prune our vineyard; each year establishing a new strongest arm on each side of the vine to optimise health and yield during the summer ahead. All but one of the remaining skeletal like canes, left suspended in the trellising after leaf fall last year, have been removed during the winter months and burned away from the vineyard to minimise the risk of cross year contamination.

That one extra cane is retained as a form of insurance against possible frost damage to some of the early buds which appear in April and early May. Happily, it also provides a potentially useful replacement cane should one of the original two canes prove to be less fruitful than anticipated following budburst, further helping us to maximise yield without quality compromise. In the picture below, the canopy has been thinned to three canes per vine:

Critically, everything we do while pruning affects the next two years of growth on each vine so its a key and responsible task, with little room for compromise or poor workmanship. In addition to the new arms, we also retain two stubby bud spurs on the trunk or head of the vine to create fruiting wood ready for future vintages. The chosen canes are thicker than a pencil, but not too thick, since so called bull canes tend to be less fruitful.

We then wrap one cane going one way on the fruiting wire, tying it down firmly in an arc shape to reduce what is known as end point principle ( meaning the buds at the extreme tip of the cane grow more vigorously than those in the middle ) and then the other retained cane the other way, with the ends of the tied down canes just short of meeting the tip of the cane tied to the wire from the adjacent vine. This ensures thatthe canopy will not be congested when the vine buds start to extend upward. The end result as the buds emerge looks something like this:

Considered choices are required for every vine. Which canes to retain and why? How many buds per shoot to leave? Fortunately, vines are pretty forgiving!

The effect of all this work is very pleasing to the eye as we scan the vineyard, spring being our favorite time to stand back and admire the rapidly developing new years growth. Now our work changes to rubbing off the unwanted sucker buds that have appeared along the lower part of the main the trunk of the vine. Its endless bending, back breaking work, but at least the sun is still shining!

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