Iain and Jane kindly allowed me to take part in the pruning of their vines. I was very honoured as this is an integral part to both this years and next years harvest. One wrong snip of the secateurs and it could be fatal, with this knowledge I was nervous. I’ve read books on different types of pruning and training of the vines which is all well and good but to get hands on practice really allows you to understand the importance of this process.
I arrived at Oatley, and as always the sun was shining! Iain suggested we start at the top of the vineyard as this was a warmer spot, not tropical I hasten to add, but warmer none the less. The two grape varieties grown are Madeleine Angevine and Kernling. We were starting on the late ripening Kernling. Before I was let loose on the vines, Iain went through the pruning style for this particular vine.
The technique used is called double guyot, this is where you are replacing last years cane with a one year old cane and positioning horizontally to enable the shoots to grow vertically. The picture shows the chosen canes to tie down. Due to the branches being brittle at this time of year, they wait for when the sap begins to rise in the branches as this allows more flexibility within the cane. An extra spare cane maybe left at this stage of pruning for precautionary measures, this is in case the chosen cane snaps or is damaged whilst tying it down in the horizontal position.
After following Iain and watching him carefully it was time to go it alone. I was given my own line of vines, K5, which I now have the additional honour of taking care of right up to harvesting the grapes. I suddenly feel like a mother! I have to nurture these vines to ensure they get enough sunlight, but also leave coverage to not burn plus enough air circulation.
With Iain not far away I begin my first snip. It really is a technical job and each vine is different, I have to chose the new cane that I feel looks thick and healthy enough to be the main cane for that harvest. From the photos you can see there is a lot of growth to chose from and this can make it difficult to see what is going on. I checked with Iain on several occasions to ask for advice and double check any uncertainties!
It takes Jane and Iain about an hour to do a line, it took me a good hour to do just over half a line. The weather turned and the rain got heavy so at that point we put the secateurs away and had a well earned glass of Cava.
It was great being part of the harvest back in the Autumn when the sun was out, the vineyard was alive and buzzing and seeing the vineyard in the dormant winter with bare canes, it still felt alive. It just felt the vines were resting and were peaceful.