Winter in our Hunter Valley vineyards
It’s pretty chilly out there at the moment and so it’s time for us to start readying the vineyard for the 2018/2019 growing season. One of the biggest jobs in the vineyard at this time of year is pruning so we thought we would ask Jerome Scarborough a few questions about the process.
Q. What time of year do you start pruning?
A. We want to prune as late as possible because of the fact that the Hunter is a warm climate but we also want to ensure that the vines are definitely dormant before doing so. We generally work backwards in terms of our timeline, looking to when we think budburst will be as pruning will delay budburst. July is generally the best timing for us and so we have just begun our pre-pruning regime.
Q. Why do you pre-prune?
A. The vines have lengthy canes left from the previous season. Pre-pruning lets us cut these back to better see the wood we wish to retain. It speeds up the pruning for the pruners and the wood which has been cut off can fall to the vineyard floor to break down and be incorporated into the soil as organic matter.
Q. Why do we need to prune?
A. We prune to manage the vine shape and structure and also to influence crop load. The number of buds we leave is correlated to future shoot and bunch numbers. In selecting buds and spur positions we can ensure the fruit is well spaced out and is all in a common zone which helps with vineyard management and fruit quality outcomes.
Q. What has changed in the way Scarborough Wine Co prunes over the years?
A. We have been mechanically pre-pruning with a hand clean up for many years and it is a regular practice these days. We have returned to some bespoke hand pruning for some of our older vines, or where we have young vines we are setting up. Young vines can be a bit enthusiastic with their growth (think of teenagers) and we need to bring them back into line, so a careful handed tended approach is required!
Q. How long does it take to prune all Scarborough Wine Co’s vineyards?
A. It does depend on the size of the pruning team but around 6 to 8 weeks
Q. Do you prune new vines like the new plantings of Chardonnay differently than an older vine?
A. Yes we do. With the new plantings we are aiming to set the structure of the vine, basically get it to grow in the way that we would like, so, we green prune to get shoots where we want them to be throughout the season and then in Winter we prune them as we would the more mature or established vines. Established vines we prune to have greater control over the crop.
Q. Do you prune different varieties in different ways?
A. Yes we do and that is generally determined on how vigorous a vine is.
Q. What do you do with the canes of the vines once they are pruned?
A. They are simply left under vine and then they are allowed to break down into the soil.
Q. Is there ever a case for not pruning?
A. Not for premium wine production.