Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost halfway?

Well, there is snow on the ground, the lights are lit and I am on vacation, bound for England on Monday morning. My French is in good shape, though not great, and after four months of school and five weeks of stage, I realize how little I have written here about what I've learned up to this point. I came here to learn and to work, and though I'm wasting nobody's money but my own, I'm feel compelled to prove here that I haven't been entirely wasting my time.

I spent the last week working at Domaine des Croix and Maison Camille Giroud. Since I didn't manage to get this site up and running before the vintage was over, I should tell you all that DdC was where I worked the harvest and crush. The winemaker in charge, David Croix, is a friend of mine and not only did he offer me a place at the domaine during harvest, but graciously said yes when I asked him again regarding my stage de taille.

La taille, or pruning, looms large in the calendar here, not only because it is hugely time consuming, but because if it is done badly, there is relatively little to be done to repair the damage. Careful pruning controls yields, limits a vine's susceptibility to disease and reduces the amount of work required later in the growing season. Over the past three weeks I've spent just enough time in the vines to see a variety of pruning methods and shapes and at this point I can more or less identify a badly pruned vine and picture in my head how it might take shape in coming months. So I thought it might be fun if we prune a vine together.

So let's look. Here we are in Bressandes, a Beaune Premier Cru vineyard at the top of hillside, where I spent of this past Monday. The weather was spectacular, clear and sunny (if a bit cold) and the only day on which we received no snow. The vines are the youngest of all the DdC plots, averaging about twenty five year and the fruit they yield produces a fairly burly, tannic wine. So let's take a look.

Here is a vine, as pretty as anybody could hope for. We have a baguette, the horizontal cane from which four branches protrude, and two other single branches. If trimmed correctly, this time next year we will have an almost identical formation, and pruning will be simple and then next year and so on. Where do we cut? Let's find out...

So there it is. See that, on the left? That is the courson. We trimmed that branch so that it is left with two buds. When the sap starts to run, around March, the bud at the base will produce two shoots. In an ideal world, one of those shoots will be the baguette for the following year. So now, all we need is to find one for the coming year. What next?

And it's all done. After all of that second-guessing yourself, panicking that you might accidentally cut off the wrong thing and render the vine for this season, it was actually all pretty easy. We left the single branch and just cut off last year's cane. Come February, we'll do the pliage, when we bend and tie the cane to the wire trellis and it's off to the races. If you are still unclear about what happened here, then don't worry. Neither do I!


  1. I love the pruning but am waiting impatiently for the next installment! xxx

  2. Alfred does something similar with apples. I think his trees are more complicated. The deer also prune and Alfred has no control over what they snip off.