What goes into a bottle

Making wine is very hands on and I mean literally ‘hands on.’  It doesn’t start in the cellar but in the vineyard.

If the vines are not well cared for you cannot hope to make good wine. Good wine cannot come from poor grapes. The soil, the climate –  the terroir are pivotal in influencing the grapes that are grown. Then of course there’s what the team and winemaker do in the vineyard. This includes pruning, what is grown between the vines, irrigation, no irrigation, hand pick, machine picked…the list goes on. For the purpose of this blog, I’m focusing on pruning.

In the vineyards at Sittella

In the vineyards at Sittella

You might think, why prune? What is the point? Pruning is done in winter and before the bud break. Simply put, if you don’t prune then the leaves will grow and shade the fruit, excess fruit will grow, the juice will be diluted, the vines will become too wild with too much yield and of poor quality.  But the yield does vary on grape variety and of course the climate.

There are two different types of pruning,  spur and cane. Spur pruning involves keeping two buds whereas cane pruning leaves 5-15 buds. Then in the spring each bud will produce the one shoot.

What you do in spur pruning is remove the cane that is growing from the top bud and then cut back the cane on the bottom down to two buds. This then creates the new spur. Two long canes are kept for the next year and then continue to be trained along the trellis wire.

Cane pruning involves pruning all but two or four shoots/cane from the previous season and then training them along the trellis wires. Then on these canes, the shoots grown from the buds.

In July I had the opportunity to prune at Sittella. It was pretty physical. I started at 0730 and had a mini stop at 10:30 then back again, short break for lunch and back to it until 4pm.

Colby and Lyndal showed me what to look out for, what to prune and how. As the machine pruner hadn’t been through the vineyard, I soon realised my first task should be to cut back the canes quickly, then return along the wire to tidy it up and pruning close to the buds. It is very hard work on your hands. All the way home I continued to flex my hands to avoid excess aching and pain.

Unfortunately  I only was able to prune for one full day once.  I did go back the following week to do another day but I had a terrible cold so I only lasted until 10:30 and had to go home and sleep.

Next time you have a bottle of wine, just have a think of all the work that goes into the vineyard.

It’s not for the faint hearted!