Think all is quiet in the vineyards? Think again! Vines may appear to be quietly resting under a blanket of snow, but there is more than meets the eye!
Working in the vineyard during the winter definitely doesn’t seem as glamorous as the summer, but the winter work done by the vines and cold hands is of the utmost importance to the upcoming vintage.
First of all, the vines will go into a sort of hibernation mode. They’re worked hard all spring, summer and into fall to produce fruit and now they need a rest and prepare for winter. Now vines aren’t totally like bears and just hit snooze for a couple of months, things are happening under the surface. Before they can settle in for the winter freeze, a process called root flush is underway. Vines are sending out small offshoots of roots to get nutrients and water to survive the winter. Vines have a quite remarkable ability to resist freezing thanks to this process!
The vines aren’t doing all the work either, a careful process called winter pruning is also underway by careful vineyard workers. The winter prune lays the foundation for the upcoming vintage, before a breath of spring is even in the air. It’s during this time that yield management begins. If there are too many buds left on the vine that can result in too much fruit, which may not allow enough nutrients to spread around so the fruit is poor. Alternatively – not enough buds and there may not be enough fruit.
You may be asking, why winter prune? Well, if it’s too cold for fruit to grow then it’s likely too cold for pests and disease to wreak havoc. Pruning will leave some “open wounds” if you will. In the summer, these “wounds” are incredibly susceptible to infection, so to work the vineyard team goes with secateurs in hand!
Stay tuned in the spring for part two of this four part series!