Our biggest problem is low production so we are trying something new. Another County grower harvested so much Chardonnay last year they were worrying they had pushed their vines too hard. When that happens, the vines take a year to recuperate. “Wow”, I said. “How did you get enough buds on the vine to produce that many grapes?”
Our vines are spaced four feet apart — using the “Guyot” method we tie up two canes per plant. Buds are three to four inches apart, resulting in a maximum of about 24 buds per plant, which puts a limit on how much we can harvest.
The answer was, tie up four canes and use the “Pendelbogen” method. Instead of having canes tied straight along the wire, we introduce a gentle arch and curve them over two wires. This spaces out the buds vertically as well as horizontally. It also lets you use a longer cane.
If the new method works it will make all the difference in the world. Instead of 24 buds, we’ll have 48 buds per vine. Theoretically that means twice as much fruit, which for our Pinot Noir would be 2.5 tonnes an acre — perfect! It could put control of production into our hands instead of the whims of nature. If we find that we have too much fruit we can do a green harvest and drop clusters on the ground so the energy from the vines goes into the remaining berries.
But we have to be careful — too much fruit causes problems. A little cool weather and the vines won’t be able to ripen up the grapes by Harvest time. Or if we don’t green harvest, quality could be threatened by overproduction. Or like our friends fear, if we ask too much from our vines this year, they won’t give us as much next year.
I think this is going to be fabulous. We’ll finally get a reasonable amount of grapes from our big investment in grapevines. Each year we learn a bit more and get better and better. We’re really, really excited.