It may be winter, and the vines might be dormant, but vineyard workers are awake and bustling with winter activities in preparation for the 2014 vintage.
The grape vines in the Yakima Valley are bare and the next grape harvest is eight months away, but in order to produce the best quality grapes, effort is required now.
Pruning sets the stage for the upcoming growing season. Proper pruning allows
better sunlight penetration and airflow for each vine. It also allows the grower to directly control grape yields, which in turn impacts the fruit’s balance and intensity.
Less fruit per vine makes the resulting wines more intense and complex. In wine, it’s very much a trade-off between quality and quantity
Pruning requires training and commitment. If you don’t prune hard enough, you will be forcing the vine to do more than it is comfortable doing and causing it to exert too much energy early in the season, greatly affecting the quality of the fruit.
For winemakers to achieve an ultra-premium Cabernet for example, they need to start with fruit that is cropped around three tons per acre. This requires each vine to be hand managed approximately ten times during the growing season.
The first of ten “touches” by the vineyard crew is pruning. Growers need to prune as aggressive as possible while at the same time leaving a little “insurance” in the form of a couple extra buds to compensate for what Mother Nature may throw out during the growing season. If too many buds are left, that leaves extra work for the vine to do, making it much more difficult for that vine to achieve its end goal: ripeness.