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Monday, May 25, 2009

Shoot thinning

There is a lot of rhetoric in the wine industry that would gag a maggot. Talk of artistry, love, passion, etc. Its all cool, but when you grow your own, the world is down and dirty. Grapevines, at least ours, are entering their gross and disgusting teenage years. They always have an excuse, it is always someone else's fault, and they always think they know better than you. "Oh, I thought you said that I was supposed to put out seven shoots per two bud spur;" "No, you told me to use up all the water early on so that I can't properly ripen my fruit;" "But I thought you said you wanted 4 bunches per cane from the Barbera with eight batches of second crop."
Folks, I'll be honest with you, grapevines are stupid, they are greedy, thoughtless and selfish. Grapevines are weeds and we make weedjuice and there seems to be a whole industry passionately devoted to fermenting weed schmutz into overpriced liquid poetry. Our vines are in the awkward 12-year old stage; stupid, ugly, stinky and gangly, all pimples and elbows, tripping and whining. They will eventually become restrained and wisened, like those regal old vines that are in balance with their environment. Crop will be light, vegetative growth diminished, but quality will grow. The 10-25 years are the best for quality versus productivity, and then after that quality rises but yield goes down - just like those perfect grandparents, or Monica Bellucci.
Anyway, everything is thinned, at least for now. This means that all shoots we do not want to retain are removed. Some are productive and some aren't. The Dolcetto throws a huge number of fruitless suckers, called watersprouts, that suck up energy and produce nothing. In contrast, the Barbera is extremely fruitful, no sterile shoots to be found.
This picture is of the Aglianico (ignore that weeds in the background, we are still buried in work to do), which is a bad example because it is not a dramatic overproducer. This is what it looked like before thinning. There is a visual density that indicates there is too much growth. You need dappled light and airflow to keep the system humming bug and mold free.

This is after thinning, and you get the idea.

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