January, February and March are dedicated to pruning, the most important vineyard work during winter.
An amusing legend tells us that the art of pruning can be traced back to a donkey nibbling at the vines' sprouts. The result was that the remaining branches bore bigger and sweeter fruit.
The “architecture” of the vine defines how leaves and grapes will be distributed in space. By pruning we reduce the quantity of branches, leaves and grapes on the stem, the remaining shoots should have the best possible sun exposure and thus allow a perfect ripeness to a reduced quantity of grapes.
Later our grapes should hang close to the soil to profit from the warmth reflecting from the often stony ground, yet not too close so as not to be exposed to rain splashes caused by heavy thunderstorms. 60 or 70 centimeters would be just right. Grapes should grow in the semi-shade: mild indirect light of the lower standing sun is just perfect for generating delicate flavors; direct light from the high sun in summer is too aggressive. The grapes should have a kind of parasol of leaves and otherwise hang airy in order to dry quickly after a rain shower, thus stay healthy.
With interest we observe the results of “gentle pruning”: we avoid bigger wounds to the vines: harming the old wood of the plant creates dead spaces which work like portals for fungus and other diseases. We aim for vines with longevity. Our most ancient vineyards today are about 90 years old, yet we would like to them to reach an age of 100, 120 eventually 150 years! Wine from old vineyards is especially balanced and full of character.
Winter pruning is only the first measure taken to reduce yield and optimise quality. Other canopy management techniques include trimming shoot tips, thinning out the foliage and reducing the grapes (green harvest). The next work in the vineyards is the mending of the trellises, the vine support systems, and shoot placement on these trellises.