Yesterday Barry had the good fortune to attend a Wineskills workshop on winter pruning down in the darkest depths of the countryside close to Birmingham and Tamworth; at Buzzard Valley Vineyard. The class was run by Stephen Skelton MW (in the photo above), one of the UK’s foremost experts on vineyards and wine. Stephen has been involved in English vineyards since the 1970s and has advised many of the most notable vineyards in the country since that time.
Anyway, it was an excellent day, with a class based session in the morning and an afternoon out in the (very) fresh air to learn the practical aspects. The class session covered the whole spectrum from site selection to planting, growing, importance of weed control and if course pruning to get the best out of the vine. Whilst in the practical field session Stephen gave us a masterclass in pruning and let us loose on Buzzard Valley’s Seyval Blanc vines. I’m told they will recover – one day!
In a nutshell, and for those who may be following the posts on vine growing and management, the idea is to grow to a Double Guyot style (see the picture below), which basically looks like a big T. Each arm of the T needs to be a good sturdy cane grown from the previous season that carries a number of buds (6-8 on each) which will grow the fruiting canes in the coming season. Selecting a spur with a couple of buds on it is also very important. This will be the spur from which will grow at least one of the canes for the following year.
Ongoing vine management including shoot selection, leaf stripping and canopy management were also discussed. All in all a great day made all the more enjoyable by the hosts Leon and Indie Jones (yep, that’s right) at Buzzard Valley who also provided an excellent lunch.
One of the great things about these days is meeting a range of different and interesting, more often than not eccentric, people who are to be found in the wonderful world of English wine production. One of the more interesting folks was Gareth Eccles (Abbey Park Vineyard) who has planted 800 vines near Lake Windermere in the Lake District! That’s one vineyard I’ll be keeping an eye on as Gareth tries out a number of varieties to see what works, which will provide some useful information for many northern vineyards.
The next course is vine nutrition at a Leicestershire vineyard in a few weeks time followed by techniques of sparkling wine production in Staffs. I’ll keep you posted.
In the pictures below a crown or head pruned to two good canes for this years shoots and fruits to grow from and a spur to produce the replacement canes for the next year. At the bottom is two of the students holding up a 3-4 metre pruned cane from Rondo, demonstrating how much growth the particular variety is capable of!