vine pruning techniques

The aim of pruning is to encourage the vine into a desired shape, select the best of last year’s shoots and restrict growth.

Terminology :
Shoots – The current year’s new growth
Canes – Last year’s shoots
Cordon – An arm at least one year old
Buds – The buds from which shoots grow
Spurs – a cane pruned short to 2 buds
Tailler – to prune or to trim

The main pruning systems you see in the PO are the ” Gobelet ” or Bush system where the vine is untrained and is pruned to leave 5-10 “spurs” of 2 or 3 buds in a sort of upturned hand shape.

It is easy to manage and cheap to install. However there is no support for the shoots to direct their growth or protect them from the wind. Grenache vines have upright growth and strong shoots to withstand the wind so are the most suitable for this method. Syrah and Muscat are more fragile and less upright so some form of trellising is required.

Cordon Royat is the name given to the system where the vine trunk is trained into a T shape along a wire. Along each Cordon (arm) 3 or 4 spurs are left at regular spaces. You may also see Cordon Simple where there is only one arm so the vine takes an upside-down L-shape.

Guyot is the term for taking 1 or 2 canes from last year and tying them along the wire, removing all other growth. It is less common here as it is more suited to cooler regions and is more time-consuming.

A peculiarity is the Evantaille method used for Muscat , where the trunk is divided into 3, forming a V shape with a middle trunk. Two spurs are left on each of the 3 trunks. (Evantaille is the word for Spanish Castinettes which sort of resembles the shape).

You may have seen that a pre-pruning is carried out by high-mounted tractors. This cuts off all the canes to about 20-30 cm and allegedly saves time and money. The hand-pruners come along later to do the detailed work.

Old vine prunings are usually gathered up and burned becuase they harbour the grapevine diseases – Oidium, Downy Mildew and Botrytis among others. They may alternatively be mulched up and ploughed into the ground.

If you want prunings for a barbecue – don’t hesitate to ask your local vigneron – but be quick or they’ll be burnt

Jonathan Hesford,
Domaine Treloar

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