Viticulture is a very important part of winemaking. Many would say the most important part, believing that wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.
I have therefore decided to take a closer look at different viticultural practices while I walk and bike through the vineyards.
This first article will examine a new style of pruning and trellising in Burgundy, with high poles in the vineyard – i.e. 160 cm or even 180 cm, versus the traditional 80-100 cm.
In the vineyards spreading out from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Vosne-Romanee, one finds examples of this new high-style pruning system from producers like Domaine Leroy and Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux.
A walk on Valentine’s Day
Mme. Bize-Leroy of Domaine Leroy was one of the original proponents of higher trellising and adapted pruning in the vineyards. Growers like Arnoux-Lachaux and Trapet have been inspired by her, and we now see more and more efforts to improve the vineyards and wines by changing the viticulture.
Leroy uses traditional Guyot pruning, and does not hedge the growing vegetation. This aims to avoid any kind of stress on the plant while keeping the “apex” (the still-growing leading shoot on the branch). “Palissage” (trellising: attaching the branches to a wire) is done with the growing end of each branch having not been cut.
There are two main styles of vineyard at Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux: The first – and predominant – contains higher palissage supported by longer posts (160 cm) and extra wires higher on the post to support the unhedged vines (the photo below shows the structure of this system, usually hidden by foliage).
Arnous-Lachaux’s second style has some different attributes, one being that it will support higher trellising, but secondly that it allows the more work-intensive Paisseaux canopy – the Burgundian term for echalas trellising: each vine with its individual stake (see below).
As can be seen above, these vines have not yet been pruned. Arnoux-Lachaux prunes later than many, preferring to wait until March, when the sap is rising in the vines, and following the old Burgundian maxim: “Taille tot, taille tard, rien ne vaut la taille de mars” (Prune early or prune late, nothing’s as good as pruning in March).