After 4 weeks of grey, wet weather, the wind has turned to the north, the skies have cleared and pruning has begun! The vineyards have been waterlogged! Having had 5 months without rain and the ground being as hard as nails, we now have the opposite extreme. We are not complaining as this timing for the rain is ideal and very good news for the vines, helping them ‘recover’ from the growing season and building up the water reserves for next year. The temperature has also finally dropped and this has meant that the last leaves are falling from the vines and the sap is descending to the roots for the winter.
So pruning started in the Chardonnay, which is logical as these vines are the earliest to bud in the spring, the earliest to ripen and the first to be harvested. They are pruned in the Guyot style, which leaves one long branch that is trained back onto the fruit wire from which the new growth will sprout in 2012. This is the only block pruned in this style and has remained thus purely as it would have shocked the vines too much to change the style when we bought the Domaine in 2002. All the other varieties are pruned in the ‘Cordon Royat’ style, which leaves a branch on either side of the main trunk of the vine, thus forming a very balanced growing shape and form.
Ultimately the pruning process is made up of three ‘passes’ through the vineyards. The first pass is to cut all the new growth from the past year’s growth cycle. The second pass is to then pull all this wood off the trellising, leaving it in the centre of the rows between the vines to be broken up and to allow the organic matter to reintegrate into the soil. Finally the third pass is to reattach the one or two remaining branches (as described above) to the fruit wire.
We are not alone in the vineyards. Many of our French neighbours have also set about this elongated, yet essential annual task, which they do in conjuction with their other great love and winter activity, that of shooting! What makes us chuckle to ourselves is the number of partridge and hares who seem to take refuge in the vineyards immediately surrounding Sainte Rose, where the local hunters are not allowed to shoot!