A good way to know the meaning of words is to go back to their etymological origin. The term “pruning” comes from the Latin word putare. In ancient times, this meaning was related to thought, consideration or reflection…
Our predecessors did not go wrong in linking pruning with a period of consideration and reflection. It is an artisanal process in which the winegrower carefully designs the ideal shape for each of the vines.
“The quality of the wine depends on correct pruning,” says Josep Bruna, Jean Leon’s head of viticulture. Josep Bruna has been working in the Jean Leon wineries for over 30 years and has planted many of the current vineyards on the estate. He is a real luthier in the art of pruning.
“The quality of the soil and the pruning is what most conditions the wine. Depending on the it, the quality and quantity of production can vary greatly” says Josep.
Types of pruning
“Not everyone is good at pruning. We need affection and a lot of practice” insists Bruna. Pruning is one of the most important tasks in the winemaking process. But how do you prune? What types of pruning are there?
Although technology has advanced a lot, this is a process that cannot be mechanized. It is done manually and with the only help of scissors and protective gloves. For Bruna, the key to being able to prune correctly is to spend time analyzing each of the vines and pruning according to what each one needs”.
In recent years there has been a change in a large part of Spanish vineyards adopting the Simonit and Sirch pruning. This type of pruning is more respectful with the vines since it makes smaller cuts and on the other hand reduces injuries to the perennial structure of the plant. Every time a pruning wound occurs, the plant reacts naturally by closing the lymphatic vessels that carry the lymph to the portion of extracted wood, creating ‘drying cones’. The consequent desiccation over the years, due to successive pruning cuts, reduces the amount of living wood that is in fact the store of reserve substances used by the plant at the time of sprouting and also reduces the number and efficiency from the lymphatic vessels to the leaves and to the roots.
This system is also known as “dagger and sword” or “thumb and wand”. The Guyot system allows to anticipate the growth of the vine to improve its production and the quality of life of the vineyard. During the winter, when most of the leaves have fallen, this is when Guyot pruning can be done.
In this system, the vine is led on a trellis with one or two arms in the same plane. It does not leave several thumbs, but only one and a vine with between 5 and 10 buds.
This is the pruning system used in the vineyard of Vinya La Scala. This system is used because it allows you to have a more controlled production and, therefore, to obtain higher quality grapes. However, this is one of the most artisanal pruning processes of all.
“You have to go straight and use both hands,” says Bruna. “The secret is to observe the vine well before each cut, in order to respect as much as possible the conduction of sap and not make large cuts to prevent future diseases”.
Also called cord pruning. It gets its name because the two arms of the vines rest on an aluminum cord that directs, in some way, the course of the growth of the shoots of the vine.
Like the Guyot system, the Royat should be practiced in the winter, when the leaves have already fallen. Two or three thumbs of two buds are kept on each of the arms that will bear fruit throughout the season.
The aim of pruning in green is to help control the ripening of the fruit, the development of the vine and, above all, to facilitate future maintenance work that will be carried out throughout the year in the vineyard, selecting the most future grapes fruitful.
The main difference between this pruning system and the previous two is that it is done in the spring. In May, just when the buds have sprouted from the vine, that’s when the green pruning begins. The process must be fast enough to be able to better assess which buds are the most fruitful.
In the case of not doing the green pruning, the vine will have the appearance of a bush, full of leaves and will create competition between the clusters, preventing the new shoots from developing in all their splendor and creating a microclimate inside the strain with the highest risk for pest control.
What is a pruning day like?
In Jean Leon, pruning begins in mid-November and ends in early March. Although there is no specific date to start pruning. The ideal time is “when about 80% of the leaves have fallen” on the vines.
“We must take into account the wood, the vine and the health of the vineyard… The quality and quantity of production will depend on pruning,” says Bruna.
Pruning: a craft
At Jean Leon we have the experience and professionalism of 6 winegrowers who take care of and can carefully care for each of the vines, and during the pruning season, it is necessary to expand the team. The pruning period can be extended by about 4 months, during which the growers must prune and care for each of the vines individually.
Once the whole vineyard has been pruned, it is checked that the wood is healthy and the remains are crushed to be used as compost. “Everything is re-incorporated into the vineyard itself,” says Bruna.
The quartered hands of Josep Bruna and the rest of Jean Leon’s winemakers have cared for and defined the shape of our vineyards for decades. The quality of Vinya La Scala is born from the hands. And it is that the life of a wine always begins on the ground.