Winter in the Vineyard – season of recovery and preparation.

Winter in the Vineyard - season of recovery and preparation. -

After vintage, the temperature starts to dip here in Hunter Valley and winter begins to settle in. Brightly coloured autumn leaves fade from vibrant oranges and yellows to reds and browns as they fall to the earth. With only the bare trunks and the canes remaining, this is when the vineyard team begin to prune and prepare for the next growing season. The transition for vines into the dormancy phase is gradual. Just as people loathe jumping straight from shorts to puffer jackets, for vines, it is all about acclimating to winter gradually.

Winter pruning is one of the most critical aspects of vine management. How and when we prune determines the quality of fruit that can be harvested in the coming season. Different methods of pruning create different densities of canopy which in turn helps us control the levels of photosynthesis while protecting the vines from disease. At McLeish Estate we prefer cane pruning,
which involves cutting the majority of the canes right back to the crown, with no permanent cordon. The two healthiest canes are kept and tied down along the wire, with their buds providing the fruit for the following season. The pruning time for certain varietals is also delayed to mitigate budburst.

We also use the VSP (vertical shoot position) trellis with a higher catch wire to lift the foliage which intercepts more sunlight and allows more air circulation around the fruit zone. The bare vines may have you thinking that winter is a kind of shut down period for the team however, this isn’t the case. While it’s true that vines go dormant for the winter and their growth above ground ceases, beneath the ground is a whole different story. It is this time that the roots grow, remaining active and soaking up micro nutrients in the soil so that they are recharged preparing for the warmer weather and the emergence of bud burst come spring. So, the next time you drive by the rows of vineyards in the Hunter Valley region, remember that while things may look quiet on the surface, there’s a whole lot of work being done below the ground. Though they may appear dormant, our vines are hard at work preparing for a new growing cycle and with any luck, will give rise to a fantastic vintage.