Family planning

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At the end of winter, when the vines have been dormant for several months, it’s time for some family planning.  For my grape vines, that means being trimmed back to about 40 buds per vine.

The vines are trained to the top wire of a 3-wire trellis in a method called Top Wire Cordon.  The trunk of the plant becomes a T-shape near the top wire, with the left and right sides forming “cordons” on which buds, then shoots, and finally grape bunches, form.

Pruning not only keeps the vineyard from becoming an unruly mess, but it controls the quality of the fruit.  I aim for roughly seven “spurs” on each of the two cordons.  On each spur, I aim for 3 buds that will grow into shoots during the growing season.

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Depending on the severity of the Northeast winter, and the prevalence of diseases such as anthracnose, I tend to have some variability in my vines when it comes to hitting the magic 40-bud goal.  Occasionally, the prior year’s canes simply die off, and the vine needs to be trimmed back more aggressively.  On average, though, each of my vines is responsible for producing about 3 1/2 bottles of wine at harvest.

So with a little careful family planning now, they will make happy and healthy offspring in the fall.

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