In so many ways, Spring is a time of new beginnings and refocusing of energies.
With the arrival of Spring, bud break in the vineyard marks the transition from winter’s quiet dormancy to that unique awakening which begins another growing season.
As dormant buds push forth shoots, one of the most important vineyard tasks becomes that of shoot thinning, a process whereby selected vine shoots are removed in order to concentrate the vine’s energies into those desired remaining shoots which have been left on the vine.
Other benefits of shoot thinning include improved air flow among the clusters aiding in prevention of disease, and the creation of spatial openings for filtered light to better hit clusters thus promoting better color development and uniform ripening.
Though all of this may sound like easy work, shoot thinning demands trained hands and a lot of informed decision-making: is the shoot growing in a wrong direction, for example, down toward the ground? Is it fruitless? Which shoots are competing for growing space? And, which shoots have the potential to function as next year’s spur position?
As you might imagine, manual shoot thinning can be time and labor intensive and vineyard managers may need to hire additional help to accomplish it – especially considering that sometimes, depending upon weather and if additional buds push shoots after the first thinning pass, shoot thinning may need to be done twice…Yikes !
As if vineyard maintenance, seasonal care, pruning, vine training, nutrient management, planting, grafting, irrigation, weed control weren’t enough to worry about … now we need to find the right team players for a second round of shoot thinning???
In the end, it’s all about keeping the vine in balance. That is to say, the vine will happily produce more shoots than it can support with quality fruit. The extra, unwanted shoots steal energy and nutrients from the vine. Through shoot thinning, the vine’s energy and nutrients are redirected to provide only for those shoots selected during the thinning process to remain on the vine.
From vineyard to cellar, there are many decisions along the way that impact the Quality vs Quantity debate, but, as has been said many times… good wine begins in the vineyard.