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Notes From the Edge

February 16, 2018 | Minimal Pruning in the Vineyard

We were interested in Minimal Pruning as a technique for managing grapes because it promised to reduce labor time and costs without reducing quality or yield. We initially trained an acre of our Chardonnay to the Smart-Dyson Double Curtain VSP system and trained the remaining acres to a Minimal Prune system. We purchased a tractor-mounted hedger (manufactured locally by RES Equipment) to “prune” the Minimal Prune acres and managed the Smart-Dyson system in the traditional way. Dormant pruning the SD acre took a week and shoot positioning, moving catch-wires, canopy separation, shoot thinning, leaf pulling, etc and took much more time during the growing season. In the MP acres, we use the hedger for dormant pruning, shoot thinning, leaf removal, and cluster thinning. After 10 years of working with both systems, we saw no difference in quality, yield or disease pressure. The only difference was in labor time and cost. The MP system was “minimal” in terms of labor. We decided to convert the SD acre to MP at that point and now manage the whole vineyard using the Minimal Prune system. The MP system lets the vines reach their own balance of vigor and fruitfulness. The permanent woody structure allows for more carbohydrate storage during the winter and gives the vines a boost when they come out of dormancy. The MP system produces more and smaller clusters with smaller berries which increases the skin to juice ratio. That higher ratio lets the varietal character and complexity come through in the finished wines. We’ve been very happy with our decision and the vines seem to agree!

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