Jean Leon |

Pruning: Traditional vs. Italian System

The man responsible for planting and caring for the Jean Leon vineyards is Josep Bruna Masana. He planted over 70{483e5444ab9fc06e19ac83efe1d2198bc64dd97b6326f9ee3936c7b95b1cf489} of the vines growing on the estate today. For over 30 years he has planted, pruned and cared for the vines. He knows them all. The young, the old, the ones in between. And he dotes on them equally.

His grandfather taught him the art of pruning. “It is a technique that is learned by doing. You have to put a lot of hours in” Masana acknowledges as he confidently cuts a cane. He knows exactly where to cut. “Not everyone knows how to do it. Pruning is undoubtedly one of the most important tasks in the vineyard. It is very difficult to mechanize, and if done improperly, it can have a direct impact on yields and grape quality.

So, what exactly does pruning entail? Bruna is happy to explain it to us. “Pruning controls the quality and quantity of the vine”. It is the primary mechanism for regulating and managing the plant and maintaining vine balance. Pruning has three main objectives:

  • Training: During the first three years, the grower’s main task is to train the vine in the pruning system of choice to fully adapt the plant to the vineyard site.
  • Regulating: Growers want to achieve a balance between vegetative growth and fruit production. They want to avoid excessive vigor, which would increase lignified (woody) growth, as well as excessive crop production, which would delay grape maturation.
  • Crop Production: Pruning allows growers to manage crop load by reducing the number of buds. Decreasing the bud count also decreases the number of clusters.

At Jean Leon we work with two vine training systems: Royat and Guyot. We’ll explain what differentiates the two.

  • Royat: The Royat system arranges the vines horizontally along a trellis. The trunk is slightly shorter than the cordon wire (the lower one), which supports the arms. There are two variants: single Cordon de Royat (one arm) and double or bilateral Cordon (two arms). Under the Royat system, vines are pruned to leave spurs (3 to 5) on each arm, spaced about 12 centimeters apart, and the fruiting spurs are pruned down to two buds.
  • Guyot: At the outset, the Guyot system is similar to the Royat: the vine is arranged horizontally along a trellis with either one or two arms. The difference lies in the pruning technique. Instead of leaving several spurs, Guyot vines are pruned to a single spur and one cane with 5 to 10 buds.

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Alright, that covers the vine training systems. But, what techniques are used to prune the vines? Let’s take a quick and very general look at the traditional pruning system. Here canes are removed by cutting them flush with the trunk, which inflicts sharp cuts on the plant. These deep pruning cuts are a gateway for potential viral, bacterial or fungal diseases like esca or eutipiosis.

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Given this situation, we introduced the Simonit & Sirch method at Jean Leon three years ago. What does this method entail? According to Bruna, “making smaller cuts in the wood”. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. “It is a very specific technique that has to be performed by reliable people who know it well”.

The technique’s main goal is to minimize pruning wounds in the plant by not cutting into wood that is more than 2 years old. This improves sap flow. The benefits are clear: the vines are healthier, more resistant, and produce higher quality grapes. This is reflected in “wines with higher acidity and more aroma” remarks Bruna.

At Jean Leon we have been using this new pruning method throughout the estate, “but especially on younger vines. With older vines, we try to minimize pruning wounds as much as possible and combine traditional techniques with the new Italian system.

As you can see, pruning is not merely an aesthetic question, but a decisive factor in ensuring the longevity and health of the vine and, consequently, the quality of future wines.

As Albert Einstein once said: If you want different results, don’t do the same thing over and over again.