If you’ve read any of our posts about working in a vineyard, you’ll be coming to realise that a vineyard’s work is never done. Each season brings a different requirement. Obviously harvesting grapes in autumn, then there is pruning in winter. And spring in the vineyard? It’s all about de-budding.
What is ‘de-budding’?
In a simplistic nutshell, de-budding (ébourgeonnage in French) is essentially getting rid of extra growth; buds, leaves, shoots… any additional growth that the vine doesn’t need.
A plant expends energy growing. If it has too many areas to expend energy on then the plant is less vigorous. By removing what you don’t need or want the plant can focus its energies on the areas you want it to. The consequence is healthier and potentially more prolific where you want it, e.g. grapes.
The first sign is ‘bud burst’, which is when the first buds of spring begin to make their appearance. Once this occurs, we have to go along to each vine and manually remove any extra greenery we don’t want. Particularly from the trunk or stem of the vine.
On the cordon – that arm where the grapes will show up along – we have to be aware of the amount of foliage we are looking for. Too much and it will block the sun from the grapes, hindering their ripening.
How to de-bud
There is a real technique and art to de-budding. And it is really quite important to get it right. What you do now will affect your upcoming harvest. Too many buds and you will get too much foliage, which means not enough sunlight to the grapes. Also too many and your vine has to expend more energy to develop those vines and grapes, which can mean less quality grapes. If you take off too many buds you will, of course, get less vines and potentially less grapes.
And it is not just how many to remove, but where they are located. How far apart are they? Which direction are they facing? For example, if a bud is on the underside of the cane, the vine will grow downward. Since upward is the preference, removal of underside buds is typical. As for distance, too close together and your grapes will struggle for space to grow big and juicy.
Pumpjack has a real knack for pruning and de-budding. He simply looks at a vine and within seconds has determined what needs doing and has already moved on to the next vine. I find myself, even after years of de-budding, assessing and re-assessing. And when you have kilometres or miles of vines to do, this is not something you can really take much time for. It’s a very real gift to be able to de-bud vines properly and quickly.
Weeding, always weeding
As de-budding means removing extra growth, so too, it means it’s time to weed. Heck, it’s always time to weed. Growth in the vines means also growth under the vines. Some vineyards use weed killer but many more do not as you can also harm the vine. So weeding is done by our lethal hands.
Because vines and their roots, especially if young, are delicate, hand tools for weeding are the norm. Even in large vineyards. Hoe’s and pickaxe are the usual weapon of choice. You get quite adept at pick-axing out weeds with one chop.
It gets more difficult to weed though as the weather turns warmer. If there is a lack of rain after a particularly wet winter, you get quite a lot of clay in the soil. The soil becomes extremely hard, and weeding becomes harder. So it is really important to stay on top of weeding throughout the spring and into the summer months.
It’s hot out there
As April moves towards May the heat will crank up. There is no shade in the vines. It’s hot, hard work, but the vines will definitely look healthier for it. You can almost hear the vines sighing in pleasure at the attention. Gathering their energy to make lots of juicy grapes. If we get it right.
More about seasonal work in the vineyard:
Frost in the Vineyard : Bud Burst Busted (March)
What is done during the summer : Summer Work in the Vineyard (May)
Shop Wine Lover Gifts
As wine makers ourselves, we are always on the search for interesting and unique and particularly French wine items for our vintage and antiques shop. Here’s a taste of some of the things we have found:
Wine Maker Tools
(If anything takes your fancy, simply click on the image to see more.)