Nicolas, Yves and Laetitia start pruning the vines

Publié le 1 fév 2012 dans Our vineyard | 0 commentaire

Nicolas, Yves and Laetitia start pruning the vines

One of the most important points in the chain of « creating » a champagne, vine pruning directly determines the quality of the grapes, and the champagne. It is a long and difficult manual labour for the winegrower, exposed to weather during the harsh months of champagne winters. But it is one of the most interesting jobs of the vine! Indeed, the action of the winemaker on the plant is paramount for the conduct and the fate of the plants, as well as for the coming harvest.

The objective of pruning is to regulate the grape production to optimize quality. Nicolas attaches lot of importance to this strategic period for his vineyards.

Determining moment in the work of the vines, the pruning controls the evolution of the vine. It prolongs its life, regularly rejuvenating the fruit branches (old wood) and fighting against diseases. It begins as early as the fall of the leaves with different stages : the pre-pruning, to shorten the wood protruding through the wires with the tractor, « the écourçonnage » to pre-selection the lumber (cep), pruning to select the canes to keep. It can continue until March. Pruning ensures the best possible flow of sap to the fruiting buds to balance force and fertility. It gives form to the vine to avoid crowding of foliage, promote photosynthesis and aeration of bunches.


In Champagne, it is precisely regulated since 1938, with 4 types of pruning allowed : Chablis (such as the prestigious wine of the same name), Cordon of Royat, Guyot and the Marne Valley. Nicolas uses 2 types of pruning, Chablis and Cordon.


In practise


vines before pruning
Nicolas pruning the vines
pruned vine


The pruning of the vine is, by definition, to leave a limited number of fruit buds. The winemaker selects canes which will provide the frame to produce the best grapes for the next harvest. He also discards all disruptive twigs, secondary branches, buds, leaves, entre-cœurs, dried bunches with manual or electric pruning secateurs. The old cut wood (ceps) and dead stumps are then recycled to produce wood pellets that fuel wood stoves, while canes are crushed directly in the vineyard for use as organic matter. Nicolas still retains some old ceps to burn them in his fire-place or on his barbecue; which delicately scents a side of beef or waffles. A winegrowers delight…


Cut branches which will be mulched with the tractor
Old wood stacked for recycling


Nicolas chooses to prune as late as possible, if possible after the hard frosts of winter and before bud burst (around the beginning of April, protective scales covering the bud depart, leaving the under fur, a sort of down and young leaves in the bud : is budburst). Budding is a sensitive stage. In the shelter of its under fur the bud can resist negative temperatures of -15 to- 20 ° C. Once this phase is initiated, its tolerance to low temperatures is no more than -2, 5 ° C. This is the reason for the damage caused by late spring frosts.

This early in the year 2012, Nicolas is a little worried, as are most of the champenois winemakers. Winter 2011-2012 resembles the autumn, with temperatures well above seasonal norms. There have been no real winter frosts and the vines have not had a normal winter rest before the pruning commences. Nicolas has found early sap movement and worries about spring frosts that could damage the vine.


Pruned vine



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