|As winter draws to a conclusion, we have completed the pruning of the grape vines. We can now look forward to watching as the vines develop and soon begin sprouting, which tells us a lot about the plants’ vitality. In addition to proper care and gentle treatment, the expert pruning of the vines has a major influence upon the growth of the grapes and their long-term health.Modern viticulture requires pruning. Nevertheless, it represents an intervention in natural processes. We repeat this measure every year and inflict new wounds upon our plants. The more invasive the pruning, the greater the wounds. This action also creates places where fungi can find a foothold. Fungi can trigger wood diseases and result in long-term damage to the plants.
Marco Simonit and Pierpaolo Sirch are two vinedressers from the Friuli region and the founders of theScuola Italiana di Potatura della Vite, which I first became acquainted with years ago. They have revived an old method and – after 20 years of testing – have begun passing it on to winemakers. The goal is to carry out this intervention as gently as possible. During their consultations, they explain that the individual characteristics of the vineyards and the different growing techniques employed must be taken into consideration. I was convinced of the benefits of their method from the very beginning. After our first meetings, initial training seminars, and especially in talks with them, my agricultural team was soon convinced that we should continue the new path we had embarked upon and that we shouldlaunch the project with Simonit&Sirch.Soft pruning aims, by means of minimal and exact cuts, to injure the grapevines as little as possible and thus to afford fungi and bacteria no opportunity to obtain a foothold. When pruning, attention focuses on young shoots, which heal better. The vitality and health of the vines is thus maintained. When cutting woody parts that have already reached several years of age, on the other hand, the plants are more seriously injured, and vascular tissue deep within the stem dies. Another important goal of this method is to reduce the effort required for subsequent work steps such as the removal of shoots and defoliation in later years.
Of course, much time is required to properly implement this method. That’s because this is a process that develops over a period of several years. This process also has a significant social component. The workers responsible for pruning gain a greater awareness of the need to deal with every individual grape vine, to observe them, and to prune in accordance with the given circumstances. They share their experience with each other and give each other advice: Thus, a conversation on the proper cultivation of the grapes is conducted in the vineyard.
Every good winemaker should aim to ensure the long and healthy life of each plant.