As the winter pruning concludes at Malvedos, there is time for reflection. Winter pruning is often thought to be the time of year when the mind switches into autopilot. But in Graham’s vineyards this is far from the truth. Pruning, which happens between November and February, is the single most important time of year in the lifecycle of our vines.
It is at this time that micro-viticultural decisions are made, which determine the individual future of every single vine and have a fundamental impact on the success of the next year’s crop of grapes. It is this that guides Graham’s approach and why we do not carry out mechanical pruning.
The other day, one of the men had just finished pruning one vine and was moving to the next one. He stood in front of it, bent over, examined the spurs where they grew out of the main cordon branch and examined each of the canes. Then after a few moments he made a few swift clips with his secateurs and moved on to its neighbour, where he repeated this process.
In those few moments, this pruner made the crucial decisions that will influence the growth of this vine over the next year. Its fate quite literally lay in the hands (holding the secateurs) of this man. It was then that the skill, knowledge and experience that these pruners have was fully impressed on me, proving that manual pruning of this nature really is an art form.
The pruners, guided by many years of experience, employ a different strategy for each vine in each vineyard parcel. In areas of low vigour, for example, they will reduce the number of fruit-bearing buds. This ensures that the yields of each vine are controlled in order to produce grapes of absolutely optimum quality. Each year, therefore, this strategy is altered depending on the present and previous year’s conditions. It is a dynamic process, designed in real time according to the needs of each vine.
Such individual care and personal attentiveness to the vines is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.