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June 25, 2006

Dropping Fruit

Today's chore was to continue dropping fruit from the second-year viognier. Essentially the rule of thumb for dropping fruit is as follows:

- if a shoot has not reached the first catch wire cut off the clusters
- if a shoot is well over the first wire and looks healthy and strong, you may leave one cluster
- if a shoot has cleared the top (third) catch wire, you may leave two clusters
- don't let fruit hang on top of fruit, drop one or the other
- the vine should appear to be "in balance" i.e. sufficient foliage per fruit clusters
- when in doubt on a young vine, drop the fruit anyway

Another debated issue contributing to clean fruit is the technique of leaf-pulling. Essentially some people maintain that it is critical to pull leaves from around the fruit clusters. The Dr. Smart book "Sunlight Into Wine", which is the de facto text on canopy management says the proper amount of sunfleck (light spots through the leaves) is about 60%. Jim Law of Linden Vineyards is a big advocate of leaf pulling, as you can read here. However, Doug indicated that he doesn't perform leaf pulling. So I was a bit confused as to which way to go. Fortunately, Mother Nature helped me out a bit. As I was dropping fruit, a storm blew in and I worked in the rain for about an hour. Once the rain stopped, I began to notice that the clusters which hung freely below the cordon dried out much more quickly than those which were surrounded by leaves. Thus, given that the entire year-long battle is to keep the fruit free of mildew it seemed obvious that leaf-pulling is essential, both to allow the fruit to dry more quickly (after a rain and in the morning as the dew evaporates) and to allow the spray to penetrate the clusters better. I will say however, that it definitely takes longer to both drop fruit and pull leaves, but I believe the difference will be in the quality of the grapes.

Finished up the viognier, and headed home.

Posted by Stephen at June 25, 2006 2:44 PM