Alright, your precious buds have made it through a long winter and recently survived a few very close calls with frost – now what is their reward? Knock half of them off!
Arguably the most important job through the grape-growing season is “thinning” or the selective removal of excess shoots and clusters. We normally start to focus on shoot-thinning at this time of year, as it becomes evident how many buds are viable and how crowded the vine is with growth. Getting an early start is extremely important, as these growing shoots tend to explode towards the sun at rapid pace, especially in warmer spring weather like we are currently experiencing. By my reckoning we are about 7-10 days ahead of the average season at this stage, boding well for getting things ripe at season’s end.
Shoot-thinning aids the growing vine in a number of ways. It gives the remaining shoots a boost in resources, reduces the crop load on the vine, and prevents over-crowding in the canopy. The goal is to get the vine to a stage where it can adequately ripen the crop load you are comfortable with. A less dense canopy is advantageous because it allows better air flow for mildew and botrytis control and increased sun exposure for the clusters. The finishing touch is cluster-thinning around veraison, which helps endow our wines with the concentrated flavours and aromas we are after. I don’t even want to think about cluster-thinning yet, so I’ll tackle that subject at a later date!
I’d also like announce the arrival of the newest addition to our family, a puppy named Lucy. She is an eight week old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who will be in charge of bird control and public relations. As for her guard dog skills, I’m skeptical at best, so we’ll spare her that chore for now. I love Lucy.