Rathfinny Wine Estate

Follow the Flow

When we think of sustainability, it can mean many different things to different people. Environmental, socio-economic, financial. They all have their place but what is really important to a vineyard is the sustainability of the vines and their long-term future.

Pruning can make a huge difference to the longevity of a vine’s life and its architecture: its structure, branching and canopy. A few wrong cuts over time and the vine won’t be in a good way, the reason is that every cut will cause dieback, where the vine heals itself. Learning to prune is not a simple process, and even though most people will pick up the basics in a few hours it takes a lifetime to master.

Image: Dieback as a result of pruning wounds

As part of our commitment to the longevity of the Vineyard we are now moving our pruning to the Simonit & Sirch methodology, a technique developed in Italy and now practised in all the major wine regions around the world. Put simply it follows the flow of the vine, respecting the natural flow of sap, and not making it work too hard! It is based on the principle that a plant cannot have a long life if it is constantly wounded. For the lay person nothing will change when they look at the vine, they’ll look the same as they always did. But for those pruning, and the vines themselves we are making subtle but crucial changes.

Having built up a local workforce over the years we are in a lucky position where we can train our own staff in the technique instead of having a team come in that may not necessarily be pruning as we want. This is a problem that plagues Viticulturists and Vineyard Managers the world over, while they themselves know what they want and how to prune the fact of the matter is they can’t prune every vine themselves, they have to have faith in those doing the work. Luckily for us, David and Guy from our Vineyard team went on a course with the Simonit and Sirch trainers last month, having had the full training they have a great understanding of the methodology and are able to teach everyone else the technique.

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  • Nice post Cam. We are transitioning over to the Simonit & Sirch method this pruning season as well. Is it your impression that the head “architecture” will take a couple of seasons to get set up laterally? Will you use any wound dressing on the larger cuts?

  • Cam – One thing I don’t understand about the S&S Guyot cane pruning method: it appears that each year the “spurs” on either side of the vine are destined to get longer an longer, leaving less and less room for the new canes that will be laid down on the wire. This is unlike the S&S cordon-spur pruning method which I learned in a seminar by them last February. With cordon-spur configuration they showed us many sketches and actual photos of the spurs over time spiraling around the same spot on the cordon where the spur originated from, thus keeping the new spur buds close to the same location along the cordon and close to the cordon. But the sketch above shows the “spur” on either side of the vine quickly growing out away from the trunk. How is that going to work for more than 5 or 6 years without drastically reducing the intervene space for the new canes to occupy?

    • Hi Al
      That is correct, the spurs do move further from the trunk over time, but there is no reason why a fruiting cane can’t be trained back on itself to fill the wire if need be.

  • Thank you for the reply, Cam. But just to be sure I understand what you are saying, does that imply that over time all of the S&S double Guyot-trained vines will eventually have the canes on both sides flipped over to the opposite side to in essence create a new “spur” section above the head of the vine?

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