Winemaker Larry McCulloch has been spending a lot of time out in the vineyards. The vines will soon be setting fruit, but in order to produce the best quality grapes the new shoots will first need to be trimmed. It’s actually a little late in the season for this vineyard task, but a combination of other farm projects and rainy days have set us back a little bit. Although we’re still able to trim the shoots in mid-June, it takes a very practiced eye to pick out the best shoots to prune now that the leaves have grown in so thickly. Luckily, Larry has plenty of experience in the vineyard. He trims shoots using hand shears, so that there is roughly one hand width of space between the shoots where they meet the woody vines that were tied down earlier this spring. The shoots fall to the ground and sunlight begins to shine more directly on the remaining leaves.
Trimming extra shoots produces better quality wine for a couple of reasons. First, it allows the leaves to have better access to sunlight, which means they will have an easier time creating food for the plant and concentrating sugars into the grapes. But it also opens up the grape clusters themselves to the sunlight and increases air circulation, which helps prevent some of the fungal infections that can be common in our damp New England climate.
After Larry has finished trimming extra greenery, he tucks the remaining shoots into the upper levels of trellis wire, so that they will have a support system when they become weighed down by heavy grape clusters. Those grapes are already on their way to developing. Little flowers are starting to open out of the tiny green projections hanging on the vines in clusters. Once the flowers are pollinated, the grapes will enjoy the heat of summer as they grow and ripen.