In the tabloids, you might see a sensationalist title like this in order to catch your attention to read a story.  We don’t need to do that here, do we?  Pruning actually is a very interesting and important topic.  After all, wine, it is said, is made in the vineyard.  

Pruning is done while the vines are dormant or sleeping.  Call it the end of the previous growth year cycle, or the beginning of the new one, it is a yearly ritual and it is one of the most important steps in the life of the vine and helps determine the quality of what ends up in the bottle.

During pruning, most of the previous year’s growth is removed in order to develop the parts of the vine that will be responsible for next harvest’s fruit.


Vine before pruning

There are many styles of pruning, I am not going to bore you here with Cordon or Cane vs. Head pruning arguments which, in any case, I have not seen done often in California Pinots, more so in Burgundy, however; or which trellising system is superior.

The objective is always the same, to provide the best possible quality fruit which will result in a better wine.

During pruning, decisions are made on which and how may canes will remain and how long they will be. That will affect the number of buds which grow into shoots and produce grape bunches. That, in turn, affects the tons per acre, or the yield, that the farmer will get.

Vines after pruning

Vines after pruning

In general, the less tons per acre, the better the quality of wine; 2-4 tons per acre  is what most shoot for.  

This used to be a dilemma for many farmers and winemakers. Most farmers get paid by the ton, so their objective is to maximize tons per acre. Most Pinot winemakers strive for less tons per acre in order to increase the quality of the wine. Conflicting objectives!

How do most quality winemakers resolve this conflict? Pay by the acre instead of by the ton, win win for the most part.

This time of year, during breaks in the rain, everyone feverishly prunes away.  In fact, Sonoma County Growers held their 10th annual pruning competition yesterday. The competition was covered by Inside Sonoma here.

Back to the old saying that wine gets made in the vineyard, well these guys have a lot to do with it. As an old farmer myself, my hat is off to them.

Check out their description: “A lively, action-packed competition with ten top professional vineyard pruners working on five vines each and a large crowd cheering for their favorites. Judged for speed and quality of work.” 

I couldn’t make the competition but surely lots of fun was had by all.