Pruning is a vital step in caring for the vines during the dormant phase. It can look like a rough practice but with a plant as vigorous in growth as grapevines, it ensures the best amount of growth for the next vintage while caring for the longer-term life of the vine.
During the winter months, vines enter a dormant phase where they survive on stored energy reserves as there are no leaves for photosynthesis. It is during this time that the vines are pruned back from the season’s growth and leaving behind the buds that will grow the next season’s shoots, leaves and fruit bunches.
When vines are left to grow too vigorously there will be too much fruit with too many leaves resulting in fruit with weak cultivar character that is unable to ripen from the sun’s rays. Most vines are trained onto a trellising which is a system of wires that are pulled taught by posts and vines are grown to attach and use the wires for support. There are many versions of systems and training by pruning used taking into consideration the vigour of the cultivar, climate, soil and age of the vine. At its most simple, vines are trellised using either spur pruning or cane pruning. Spur pruning is where the permanent trunk grows straight up from the roots and a long-term cordon grows from the trunk and is trained onto the trellis wire, both grow thicker over time. From the cordon, spurs grow at equal intervals and, in turn, grow canes which are pruned to the buds desired for the next season’s growth. Cane pruning, or Guyot, is where the trunk grows the seasonal canes that have the desired number of buds and are tethered directly to the trellis wire. Spur pruning is the more traditional method that is widely seen and used for growing quality wine cultivars.
At Ken Forrester, there are many vineyards with old vines that grow exceptional quality fruit, including bush vines. These are vines that grow a gnarly stump without a trellis system to support the canes and careful consideration is taken to ensure the berry bunches don’t drag on the ground. The objective of caring for bush vines is the same, ensuring air circulation and catching enough sun by keeping the middle, or crown pruned clear. This gives a goblet shape which is often the name used to describe this type of viticulture.
Establishing the plan for each vineyard requires knowledge and wisdom to balance what is possible from the vines with the desired quality and quantity of wine to be made. The objective is to control the shape that enables a balance of the growing conditions, such as air circulation and sun exposure, for the best quality fruit.
Ken Forrester has been producing wine since 1994 at the Stellenbosch estate curating and applying knowledge and wisdom in each vintage to ensure the quality you have come to love, and trust continues with every glass of wine.