Pruning Fundamentals

By Sergio Cuadra | Fall Creek Vineyards Director of Winemaking

1st Quarter

Winemakers are much like pilots, as we both are people who have to be aware of the weather. Staying on top of weather conditions may not be a matter of human life-survival, but it will be an important aid in making the best decisions to benefit the coming grape season.

This time of the year might seem to be of lesser importance in terms of weather condition and, to tell the truth, it’s not precisely the most crucial.  Nevertheless, it is good to keep track of what’s going on in order to get a better picture of what to expect next Spring.

Let’s see, according to the latest weather data, I presume I don’t need to point out that we are experiencing a colder than usual fall/winter time. The second part of November’s average temperatures, which includes those pleasant days that ended on the 21st, was 4.32ºF lower than the month’s average, 58.5ºF.  However, taking data from November 22nd on those last nine days of last month averaged only 44.3ºF.  Last December we experienced colder than usual temperatures as well, though closer to the month’s average, 46.2ºF measured for a 50.4ºF historic average.  All these temperatures are according to the readings at Bergstrom International Airport.

Does this have anything to do with our vineyards?  Yes, vines, like basically all other deciduous fruit trees, need to sort of “register” cold.  In fact, there is a list of species and their winter cold needs (called “cold hours”) that lets you know where they would perform as expected.  Only until enough cold time has been felt are they able to wake up “ready” with the warming temperatures of spring.  This adaptation keeps them from not bud breaking too soon after the next mid-winter heat wave.

Since this process occurs at bud level, we don’t have to worry about pruning; all remaining buds would have the ability to start with the right stimulus.  Now, the good thing about this cold weather we are experiencing is that it promotes good “cold registration” among plants/buds, which usually results in a more even bud break in the vineyard.  This, while not fundamental, is highly desirable by the viticulturist who can assess the right timing for all sorts of canopy interventions, which would be  best throughout the season and eventually we can end up having an even ripeness at harvest time, which is highly desirable for everybody.

So, let’s gear up for the cold and let more come, for it well may mean a good start this year!

Sergio Cuadra
Fall Creek Vineyards Director of Winemaking

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