Keeping the Vines in Trim

The end of August is often thought of as a quieter time in the vines, but with intermittent rain in the last fortnight, we have to be vigilant against the threat of mildew.  As I wrote here, the sprayer we bought in 2006 has proved to be a great investment for the three seasons so far, especially in the tricky years of 2007 and 2008.

Daniel, the guvnor, is back from his annuals and is out there trimming the vines. As well as keeping the vines in good shape, it’s a preventative step against mildew when timed correctly. The row on the right has been given a short back and sides, while the row on the left is about to be snipped.

These are vines I planted in 2001, and they’re just beginning to produce good merlot fruit with interesting flavours. We have to use one of our two smaller tractors because the rows are quite narrow at a width of 1.80m. With the gap of 1m between each vine, that’s 5555 vines per hectare. Far better than the 3000 you’d find in many Bordeaux vineyards, producing the same volume of wine with many more bunches per vine, and not far off the density in top Pomerol and St-Emilion estates. It’s much less than the 10,000 vines in a top Pauillac estate like Lafite, but then again we have much steeper slopes to contend with, and very different soils. I’m often asked how many bottles we make from a single vine: judging by the likely yields of just over 40 hectolitres per hectare, we’ll make about a bottle of wine per vine from this parcel. God willing.

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