You may not be able to understand my enthusiasm, but after walking and pruning 20 acres of grapes, we celebrated the completion of pruning. It just so happened that we finished early afternoon on the birthday of our 6 yr. old son, so, our celebration was complete with cake and ice cream (that is, homemade coffee ice cream from Buttercup’s milk)!
Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the vineyard before pruning began which showed all of last year’s growth. But, hopefully the pictures I do have will give you some idea of the pruning process. Ideally, you begin with the variety having the latest bud break – meaning the vines which begin to bud out last. So, we first pruned the Roussanne (7.3 acres) then the Montepulciano (5 acres) and finally the Aglianico (7.7 acres).
With the Aglianico, we used a machine to pre-prune the vines. The pre-pruner is pulled by a tractor and 2 men sit on the pre-pruner trimming the vines on either side of the row. Below you can see vines that have been pre-pruned. While you still must go back through and hand prune the vines, the big advantage to using a pre-pruner is that it pulls most of the growth from last year out for you thus saving a lot of time.
Optimally, you want to be left with about 10 buds per arm when you are finished pruning. Hopefully, in the picture below, you can see the little white bulge on the spur to the left. You should definitely be able to see the green bud opening to the right.
Below is the same vine completely pruned. Each of the buds left will produce blooms which will then produce grapes. There is a delicate balance between leaving enough buds so as to have the greatest amount of fruit but not to over stress the vine with too much fruit. If the vine produces too much fruit, either it will drop fruit on its own, you must thin the fruit yourself or the fruit will be poor quality with uneven ripening.
Do not think that because the pruning is finished the vineyard work is done! We are now debudding which I will explain later.