During this long procedure that takes up all of late fall and winter, up to the beginning of spring, the winemaker determines the future of every plant. He or she takes stock of the errors and the things done well in the previous year, and thinks about the year to come as well as the years after that. The stakes in this work are the longevity of the plant in addition to the quality of its harvest. What machine could do all of that?
The type of vine training exercised in these hills is called simple guyot or modified arch, and calls for unavoidably manual pruning. From the tangle of branches without any obvious signs of life, you choose one, from whose buds new fruit-bearing shoots will be born.
The average pruning of dolcetto is around eight buds, but the choice must always be made based on the strength of the plant that can be evaluated by observing the development of the shoots from the previous year. Over-pruning a vine that is not strong enough can lead to the progressive weakening of the plant that can endanger the plant’s life span, as well as limit its qualitative and quantitative outputs. An excessively short pruning, on the other hand, can lead to the production of a small number of shoots that are too vigorous, with the danger of grape shatter or the production of few bunches that are excessively large and low-quality, which in the case of Dolcetto tend to remain red and fall down, especially on fertile and deep soils.
Shoots that are too large with non-rounded buds should be excluded; the production of foliage would dominate and the excessive vigor of the sap would endanger the process of the flower developing into fruit. Shoots that are too thin can also prove to be unsuitable because without an outlet, the eventual energy of the plant could lead to the development of sterile vegetation on the trunk of the plant. Even the shape of the buds suggests a choice in the attempt to discover the fertile shoots.
Learning to prune isn’t difficult, it’s enough to know how to reason and to have someone experienced available to teach you. Pruning can be done without thinking about it too much - or you can approach every single vine thinking about its strength and the load it can bear, and of the work of those who will come after to tie and prop up the vines, work that can be helped or hindered by our choices. Pruning is like being an instrument in an orchestra.
Pietro Bocca San Fereolo
Pruning plants that are old or that were neglected by the previous landowner is always more complex than pruning a new vineyard. The plant has already taken its shape; it’s difficult to bring it back toward the trunk and the shoots no longer have the strength or the uniformity of a new vine. These plants require experience and patience.
mauro zabot costa prà
Many producers prefer to prune when the spring has already started. At that point, when the vines are cut, they “weep,” emitting the sap that is already in circulation. This way, the cut is cleaned and the vine reacts by forming a barrier against viruses and fungus.
Roberto Altare le surie
Other producers prefer instead to take the work of pruning slowly, and to start as soon as the cold is intense enough to stop the vegetative activity of the vines. The days are short but the time ahead is long. After the rush of the spring and summer, the work is calmer now.