Vine Balance in the Vineyard
As Jason noted last month, all the winemaking activity at this time of year is happening out in the vineyard. After fruit set, Fredi and his team turn their focus to canopy management. Canopy management requires manipulating the shoots, leaves, and fruit to create a healthy environment for the grapes to grow. This starts with removing any excess shoots, referred to as “shoot thinning”. Wait, more shoots means more fruit right? Not always. If a vine has too many shoots, it’ll focus on growing more leaves instead of producing delicious grapes. Once the shoot thinning is completed, the vineyard crew moves to leaf pulling.
Part of canopy management is creating an airy, light speckled interior for the grapes. This is done through leaf pulling. By removing excess leaves, the canopy becomes less cluttered, making room for air flow and sunlight. Airflow helps the interior by lowering the temperature and preventing certain fungus from developing. Essentially allowing the grapes to breathe. Letting in sunlight allows for leaves lower on the vine to receive more sunlight and after a rain, prevents stagnant water from settling on the leaves. This stagnant water can create a breeding ground for more disease.
Canopy management is part of a bigger concept called “vine balance”. A vine will only focus on fruit development if it doesn’t have to provide energy for foliage, but if you remove too many leaves, the vine wouldn’t be able to properly ripen the fruit. Remove no leaves, the vine will push more shoots, tendrils, and leaves, leaving the fruit small and undesirable for winemaking. It’s a tough scale to balance, but Fredi and his crew do a great job!