Vineyard management

Vineyard management has two categories:

  • housekeeping and
  • canopy management.

Housekeeping

An important point to make at the outset is that many grape diseases are fungal and to prevent these from spreading good housekeeping is important. Spores can over-winter on dead wood and the like so it is important not to allow debris to accumulate; bag it, bury it or burn it. This also applies to prunings (which may be infected). After harvest, remove any bunches that were left as these will shrivel and can form a breeding ground for diseases.

» More about diseases

Canopy management

The aim of canopy management is really twofold:

  • to ensure that the vineyard does not become an impenetrable jungle, and
  • to allow the maximum light and air to reach the bunches.

The former may seem like a joke, but vines are vigorous, produce laterals and have tendrils. If the new shoots are not supported in some way they will fall under their own weight and lock on to fallen shoots from adjacent rows. Very quickly the whole site becomes impenetrable and drastic, time consuming action is necessary. For the same reason it is important to ensure the trellising system is strong enough to carry the weight of the shoots and bunches.

» More about canopy management

Flower and fruit formation

Vines will form flowers and fruit at a particular point along the new shoot. Many vines (including Seyval Blanc) flower at the fourth leaf; others flower between the second and sixth leaf. If a flower does not form at the appropriate point, the result is a blind (i.e. non-flowering) shoot. Blind shoots should be removed; as they do not contribute to the yield, they should not be allowed to sap the strength of the vine.

Mature vines shoots will produce two, three or even four sets of flowers; most writers on the subject recommend allowing no more than two to develop and for best quality wine it is recommended that only a single bunch should be allowed to develop on each stem.

I have tried growing three bunches on a stem; the top one is usually smaller and well into to part of the canopy that should be preserved so ripening conditions are not good; it is probably not a good idea unless you have a very warm site and cannot increase yield in any other way.

Laterals, including any that develop as a result of stopping the main stem, will also flower. These will generally form too late in the season to ripen and should be removed.

Newly planted and one-year-old vines should not be allowed to carry any fruit. Two year olds may be allowed to carry one bunch per stem if the plant looks strong. Four year olds can generally carry two.

Some growers never allow more than one bunch per stem even on a mature vine as this is said to produce better quality wine. Most amateurs will be attracted first to quantity and then to quality particularly as the bunches are quite small on young plants but get bigger as the plant gets older. Additionally, provided that the bunches are not shaded, then (according to Smart) there is no reason why quality should not be good.

» Next topic Harvesting tips

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