We first embarked on our monumental task of pruning in mid January. 14,500 vines to do. Wow. Just think about that, seems like a lot huh? Each individual vine will get from between 30 seconds and a minute of alone time with either myself or Toby. Now that’s intimate.

A gloomy and frost bitten mid-morning overlooking the top of the Iron Age parcel

Pruning sounds very generic and for that reason I don’t like that word in this instance. But that is what it is. Pruning signals the beginning of the new year in a vineyard. It is essentially a very slow reset button, but an extremely technical job. So, unfortunately a press of a button doesn’t solve our problem here.There are many factors that need to be considered when pruning, factors like the weather in the previous growing season, as well as yield, what styles of wines one intends on making and the quality factors of those wines are to name but a few. The list is quite extensive and many of them go beyond what I would like to write about in this Bloog (my mash-up of Bluestone and blog… It’ll catch on).

We need a bit of context before I talk more about our pruning. We must understand the 2018 vintage. A quick Nat snapshot then. My my my was 2018 good. From flowering to harvest the weather was near perfect, beautifully warm and sunny in all the right places. I would highly recommend English wines.Info website, which has much more detailed information (https://englishwines.info/). It brilliant.

Anyway… the UK wine industry is predicted to have produced about 15.6 million bottles of wine in 2018. A whopping 160% increase on 2017. So lots and lots of wine and lots and lots of grapes. A momentous year that will forever go down in history.

Because of the great weather during flowering last year there is likely to be a high crop potential this year. Again, the more interesting sciencey stuff is quite complicated and I will perhaps write about this on a different Bloog (see, you’re getting used to it now).

With this in mind, we need to be sympathetic towards the vines as to not to overcrop them this year. If you overcrop the vines

1. You could decrease that year’s fruit quality due to under ripeness/ create more work through green harvesting

2. You decrease the vines longer term productivity & health

3. You may negatively affect the quality and yield in the following year

The thing to always have in mind with a commercial vineyard is that it is long term (vines can have a good productive lifespan of 25 years). So you always think of the years ahead; what can we be doing now to positively impact or not negatively impact on the next vintage?

Snowy scenes after the after the heavy snow at the beginning of February 2019

Our vines are very young. 2019 will be the 4th growing season for the majority of our vines and will be bearing a much larger crop than 2018. You tend to limit the crop of young vines so they are able to allocate energy for root and trunk development. This way you do not stress the vines in their adolescent years and they become better established more quickly.

Bluestone Pruning

The shape of the vine is the vine architecture. This has not yet been set for our vines and what we do this year will determine how they will look for the foreseeable future. You may have seen an old vine and what it looks like; typically, a crown and two spindly canes sticking out, like a “Y” shape. We have an opportunity to adopt one of many styles of pruning & trellising to ensure the longevity of our vines and the quality of our fruit.

After extensive research into pruning methods and styles we are adopting the Simonit & Sirch gentle pruning method. These two great Italian guys are super passionate and have revived this ancient method of pruning. It respects the sap flow of the vine by keeping open sap channels with minimal dieback interrupting the flow of essential nutrients to the the leaves and the fruit. That is the main aim of this pruning method and as a result we are able to maintain healthy vines for longer, allowing them to be more productive over their lifespan.

Dieback into living tissue of the vine, especially on traditionally pruned vines (cordon or guyot) results in high concentrations of wounds in the same area, which begins to block the sap flow. Gentle pruning alleviates or avoids this altogether.

With gentle pruning, your crown becomes a stretched “V” shape leaving lots of dead space on the top. The pruning wounds and minimal dieback is restricted to one side of the “crown” leaving uninterrupted sap flow on the underside.

The vine before it has been pruned. A bit of a mess, making it is hard to visualise how you want the vine to look for the following year. With time, and practise, you get better at seeing the vine a year in the future and can make cuts quickly (but safely).

The vine after it has been pruned. The fruiting cane (the cane going off to the left) is where the new shoots will grow from, bearing the fruit for 2019. The little stub on the right is called a spur and has 2 buds. The bud on the topside may be a fruiting cane next year and the bud on the underside a spur.

That’s gentle pruning in a nutshell. If you would like to find out more then get in touch or just pop up and say hi. Please leave any comments or feedback on this post. I am more than happy to discuss and answer any questions.

Until next time on the Bloog. (See it just rolls off the tongue now)


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