Pruning is an essential and integral practice on the vineyard calendar, if not the most important. It is a time to shape the vines and gently persuade them to bear the best fruit possible. The perfect time for pruning is when all the leaves have dropped and the vines are in dormancy. In other words, winter (July and August) in South Africa. An interesting fact that most people probably don’t know is that a specific year’s crop is already determined 18 months before the current vintage buds. Viticulture is a carefully studied science.
Every single one of Lourensford’s 405 000 vines are pruned by hand. This is a detailed job that is done with the utmost care. An experienced pruner can prune about 350 vines per day. To ease the process, a pre-pruning action is carried out where the shoots are cut shorter and removed from the wires. As the tendrils hang on for dear life, this is a very necessary part of the process but does not require a lot of skill. The next step is more detailed pruning which is a much more focussed process. Skill is very important here in order to choose the best fruit bearing buds for next year. The perfect shoot to cut back to is slightly thicker than a pencil and healthy brown in colour. This will be cut back to between one to six buds, depending on variety and vineyard history.
The most important reasons for pruning are
- To keep the vines’ shape and to use the trellising system optimally.
- To space out the shoots in order to let sunlight on the buds, which will keep the vines fertile (without pruning you will get too much overshadowing and smaller and fewer bunches over the years).
- Thinned shoots will also improve circulation of air during the growing season which in turn will decrease the incidence of rot and disease.
It is all about balance.