Pruning and trimming by hand- another aspect of respect for our biodynamic vines
Seán starts his pruning marathon – three months of hard work (what’s required to get through our seven hectares) as soon as the vines drop their leaves- early December usually. He loves this quiet moment in the vines, enjoying it more than the heat of summer and associated hours on the tractor.
The vineyard can be shrouded in hoar frost, the vines look dead, like bundles of twigs attached to vertical trunks, but they are merely asleep. You can still feel them. Their living presence, almost more aware of us than at other times like spring and summer when they are focused on their growth cycle. A well wrapped Seán takes off with his electric secateurs.
He prunes each vine down to one or two carefully selected canes that will be the bearers of next year’s bounty. It’s a skilled job requiring concentration and judgement. He considers the wine we plan to make, the overall vineyard and its location and all importantly, the health of each specific vine and its ability to produce the following year. This year is especially complicated – the canes that were frosted in the spring are spindly so there is less choice of good wood. Due to this we will see an negative effect on our harvest yield next year too. There is talk of a vineyard robot and some people machine prune. For us this moment of handwork in the vineyard is too important to us and our vines and our wine quality to consider mechanising it.
Once the cutting is complete I pull the discarded canes off the trellising. It’s hard work and a source of injury particularly to eyes as the canes can whip back unexpected (protective eye gear required). The tendrils that looked so delicate holding the canes onto the trellising in summer become hard and tough as wire. In late February as the pruning marathon is nearing its end, Sean will attach the vine canes to the trellis. Then late March the buds start to swell and it is a mad rush to finish the tying down.
Another element of handwork that we do that is very rare is hand trimming rather than machine trimming. As biodynamicists we say ‘no violence against the vine’.
Caro lying down to connect to the ground and look at the sky after a row of pulling the wood.
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