Pruning for a healthy vineyard and wine for a snow day

In my previous post on pruning I dealt with the question of how we work out the specific tonnage for a block of grapes, based on vine density and the type of system we use.

I did mention that at Keswick Vineyards we use a uni-lateral or bi-lateral cordon system on which we leave 2-3 bud spurs. But why do we use this system and are there others we are thinking about using.

Great Question and YES, I am.

What other pruning could there be, surprisingly enough, quite a few but the one that I have been toying with for a while is cane pruning. But Why?

Well to answer that question we must distinguish between spur and cane pruning.

cutting last years canes down to 4 bud spurs

As is the case with spur pruning, you already have established cordons [those cordons can be 5-25 years old], the only cutting you do is leaving spurs of 2-4 buds, buds that will produce fruit bearing shoots. You can clearly see the established arms and the previous years shoot growth in the foreground, in the back ground you will notice the vines that have been pruned.
With cane pruning however, you establish a new cordon every year by laying down one shoot from the previous years growth. This shoot will be 2-3 feet in length and have approximately 6 buds out of which next years shoots will grow.
The big question is thus, why would we even consider changing an already established system, a proven system if you like judging on the wines? Well the answer is one of fungal disease, namely phomopsis and eutypa. I have started to see some of the cordons in our spur pruned vineyard, develop this disease and I am wondering how to control, manage and ultimately eradicate it from the vineyard. Of course we can spray fungicides, but that is counter intuitive to what we are trying to do, namely be as minimalistic as possible in the vineyard.
The clear advantage with cane pruning, is that you establish a new arm each and every year, and by choosing which shoot to retain as your arm for the year, you can choose a healthy cane. There will have to be some adjustments made to the trellis system as not all shoots will grow out vertically, but is aesthetics or the health of the vineyard the primary concern?
If there is any weight to the argument that great wines are made in the vineyard, then we better do whatever it takes to ensure the vineyard remains healthy and disease free for many years to come. At this point in time though, this type of pruning is being considered and will take a lot more consultation and evaluation of other vineyards, before we commit to changing our pruning practices.

great fruit makes great wine

It is sometimes easy to do things the way you are used to and comfortable with but it is up to us to ultimately produce the best wines, and only the best vineyards produce the wines.
By the way
The weather is crazy, snow is coming down so naturally you reach for the red wines, hell no, this is a Riesling night. This particular Riesling is made by Charles Smith and the Magnificent Wine Company, and at $16.99 retail, you cannot go wrong, I do not mind the little bit of residual sugar, just wish they put more wine in the bottle.