January is the month dedicated to the pruning time.
It is a very important moment in the cycle of the vine because it is when the winemaker guides his vineyards towards a quality and a quantity production, besides shape the vines and keep that shape during the time.
Do you know that there are 2 types of pruning?
The dry pruning happens in January while the green pruning is in spring/summer time. This last pruning consists in removing the excess of leaves from the plants in order to permit a better sun exposition of the grapes that need to ripe and change colours (from green to yellow or red).
The dry pruning is carried out on the woody parts of the plant (shoots and branches). And now I explain how we do this here in Cinque Terre.
In Cinque Terre the traditional training system of the vine is "pergola". Easier to show you a photo then try to explain it!
The pruning of the pergola in Cinque Terre doesn't follow a specific method but, according to the winemaker Alessandro Crovara, there are different methods applied by the local winemakers.
For example Alessandro prefer to not cut immediately all the vine arms but he keeps 2 or 3 per plant and then in late February/March he decides which one to cut. In this way he has the time to see which branch is more strong and maybe more productive (looking at the type and the size of the buds). Usually there are about 4/5 buds per arm, but not all the buds always sprout (from the sprout there will be the bunch grape later).
There is a general rule to prune the pergola: better to keep the plant close to the border of the field (close to the walking path) and not to close to the dry-stone walls for 2 reasons:
- it's very hard to pick the grapes at the end of the pergolato (especially if it is a low pergolato)
- the dry-stone walls develop humidity that is not good for the growth of the grapes
And to prune the filare?
In general it is better to cut the vine arms that grow to much in high, better to remain closer to the ground.
In Cinque Terre there are mainly 3 grapes variety and each of them prefer a different training system. Bosco loves the pergola because it is a plant that produces a lot of shoots and with the pergola it's easier to keep the vineyards clean and organized, while Albarola (that has a very tight bunch) prefer the filare because there is much more aeration. Vermentino is a great and strong plants very adaptable to different training system.
Pruning is not easy at all! It requires time to understand it and above all a lot of practice on the field. But the most amazing thing is that when you visit a vineyard you can see the pruning choice made by the winemaker the previous year (Wine Route and Tasting experience)
What's happen at the end of the pruning?
It's very important to remove from the ground the shoots and branches cut, usually they are burnt a little bit far from the vineyards. Then there is the cleaning of the ground from the grass and the last action is to fertilise the ground using natural ingredients.
And then? February is tying time but this is another story...