It’s pruning season, our favorite time of the year, and we wanted to share what is happening in the vineyards and why love pruning. In fact, many people don’t realize that the image on our wine labels is a jumble of pruning shears!
One of the wonderful things about tending vineyards is that the work follows the annual rhythm of the seasons: spring growth, summer ripening, fall harvest, and then the long cold nights of winter, when the vines sleep. That is when we prune them, readying them for the new year ahead. This is an annual job for each and every vine, repeating the work we did the year before, and the year before that, over the life of the vineyard. With time the relationship with the vines deepens, they respond to the annual communion between human and plant, bearing better fruit each year.
Why do we prune? Because if the vine is not pruned it reverts very quickly to its wild nature, climbing everywhere with its long sinewy trunk and tiny scraggly bunches of uneven grapes. Every year we need to assess the growth of the vines, and decide whether to prune them back harder, or to let them grow a bit bigger, or return them to the same size and shape they were the year before.
Part of the pleasure of pruning is that it is pure craftmanship, like woodworking or ceramics, a blending of form and vision, assessing the vine’s growth and adjusting the pruning cuts to its individual differences. It’s also a tactile relationship with nature, the living vines that could easily grow wild guided by our hands to line up in vineyard rows ready to bear another crop of wine grapes for our pleasure and nourishment.
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As farmers we need help from others to prune all of our vines, the job is too big for one person. We have our small crew of long time vineyard workers. We also have our interns this year, four wine-loving women who are learning the trade, starting with the craft of pruning, and soon learning the next steps in the vineyard as we follow the annual cycle. Each vineyard is a bit different, so Steve is enjoying a different side of the craft, the teaching, while he explains why one vineyard needs to be pruned a little differently than the last one.
If we prune correctly the vine will be balanced. That means it will grow just enough. If it grows too much, the resulting wines will be thin and simple. If it grows too little, the wine will be bitter and hard. The right amount of growth—what we call “balanced growth”—results in balanced wines that are delicious and show the terroir.
We are very excited about the 2021 vintage. Each new year starts full of hope. Some years give us a smoother path to harvest than others, but one thing we confidently know: in seven months, when the fruit is ready, the vines will have experienced and accumulated the story of the vintage. Rain, drought, frost, heat, hail, mildew, wind, birds: all will have made their mark. Starting with pruning, our job is to tend the vines so that the inevitable adversity adds character to the vintage, making it distinctive. If we do our job well, the wine will deliciously reflect the journey of its fruit from pruning to harvest. You will taste real vineyards, real craftsmanship, real wine. And then we’ll do it all again next year, starting with pruning.
Thank you as always for your support of our work at Matthiasson.
Steve and Jill Matthiasson