Wine Grape Canopy Management

By: Pobert II Smith

Wine has unfalteringly accompanied us through history. It has seen the rise and fall of many an empire, it stood by us in biblical times, sloshed around in goblets at our medieval feasts, and patiently waited for us to regain our senses during prohibition.

So we’ve had a little time to study and try to improve upon our techniques. In fact, we’ve done so much pondering on the subject that it has become its own science; enology.

There are numerous steps in making a good wine that start from the instant the very first vines are planted all the way to the bottle. Aspects of botany, soil biology, chemistry, microbiology, genetics, ecology, physics, and engineering (just to name a few), all come into play in the complex orchestra of making a wine.

One technique that has emerged one the forefront of enology is canopy management. The term canopy management is just a fancy way of referring to the control and orientation of grape vines and leaves. But don’t be fooled by this simple definition, canopy management is a complex and important technique.

When viticulturists refer to the “canopy”, they are talking about the shoot system of the plant, which includes the leaves, the stems, and the grape clusters. The canopy can be described by it’s length, height, width, leaf area, and density of the shoots.

When picturing a healthy vineyard, you may think of long dark green rows of vines, with dense and lush leaves. As you walk into the rows, it’s shady and the air is cooler and moist. These growing conditions may sound perfect but in reality they do not produce the best wines. The best wines come from low yield vines that are slightly stressed and the grapes have more contact with light and air.

Research has proven that fruit from these types of vines taste better and are less likely to suffer from infections of bunch rot or mildew. This is because removing leaves and spacing out vines increases air movement. This in turn means that moisture from rain and dew dry faster, which prevents the formation of diseases. Also, any preventative sprays used on the canopy will penetrate farther in. So through leaf plucking, trimming and vine positioning, the viticulturist manages the canopy to produce the best grapes for wine.

The aim of canopy management is to maximize the amount of sunlight and minimize shading , all while maintaining a good balance between shoot growth and grape production. The tricky part is that every grape variety, every vineyard, and every growing season is different. So in turn, every canopy needs to be managed differently.

There are five basic steps of canopy management that every viticulturist should follow. Some varieties of grapes require all five steps, some require less, and some require the repeat of certain steps. If the growing season that year is dry, then less steps should be used, or if it is wet, more should be used. Viticulturists must decide (sometimes through trial and error) how to adjust canopy management techniques to best suit their own situation.

This consists of removing any unwanted shoots that are growing on the trunk of the main vine. Any shoots that have no fruit are removed first, unless the vine itself is damaged and the new shoot will help replace the trunk. Shoot thinning should be done early in the season. This way shoots are easily removable and the grapes are visible to distinguish between fruitful and unfruitful shoots. Once shoot thinning is done, the canopy should have about 6-8 shoots per foot.

Shoots don’t just grow up and down. Often they grow sideways and attach to other shoots and vines. So the viticulturist positions the shoots so that they will grow in a way that promotes an open canopy, and stays with the shape of the trellis system. There are two unique terms used in shoot positioning and they are combing and tucking. Combing means to position the shoot downwards and tucking means to position the shoot upwards. Shoot positioning should be done some time between blooming and when the fruit sets in. During this window of opportunity, the shoots are strong enough not to snap and the tendrils aren’t fully active.

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Robert II Smith has spent more than 19 years working as a professor at New York University. Now he spends most of his time with his family and shares his experience about business essay. Robert II Smith is a right person to ask about management essay.

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