How do you work the vine?

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Written By Gilberto Mattei

The working of the vine plant, from which the wine that ends up on our table will be born, sees great constancy and perseverance on the part of the vine grower. So let us assume that the vine has been properly grafted and planted in the most favourable soil.

Vine processing

It must now be worked, not by chance, but by giving it a shape that facilitates the work of the vine-dresser and the treatment of the vine, ensures the necessary aeration and allows the grapes to finally reach full maturity. It would then have to wait at least three years before wine could be made from the juice of its grapes; while some owners of large vineyards still consider this time frame insufficient. Then, from the third spring, when the pruning has been completed and the suckers begin to swell, the sap drips drop by drop from the pruning wounds. A new phase then begins. It is necessary to gather all the vine shoots and attach them to wire, and to remove each stump from the mound of earth with which it was surrounded in the autumn to protect it from the cold.  Throughout the spring and summer the work continues.

Pest invasions

But here comes an invasion of red spiders, and then the vine must be treated with the appropriate insecticides.
If the weather is rainy, peronospera is likely to attach itself to the leaves, and then the fungus must be destroyed with sulphur sprays, and one may have to start all over again if the March storms wash away the beneficial protection. Another fungus, oidium, can attach itself to vine shoots and tendrils, and the winegrower must protect his vineyard from worms.

Dangers to the vineyard

When the temperature softens, the vine throws shoots in all directions. If one were not careful, it would turn the vineyard into a forest and waste its energy unfurling lush foliage instead of producing beautiful bunches of grapes. This chaos must be put in order, tying vines, pruning, pruning again with shears. As the summer progresses, the vine-dresser continues tirelessly to pull weeds, to give sulphur, to weed, to ward off one threat after another, in the constant fear of seeing the heavy yellowish clouds heralding hail appear to the west. He sees them accumulating, fires rockets in the vain hope of dispersing them.

A lone man lighting firecrackers in the face of threatening clouds: the disproportion of the forces facing each other could induce a smile,vine
but it is enough to have once seen a hailstorm strike a vineyard: within minutes, disaster is accomplished.

 

Vine injured by hail requires double the care. Perhaps the harvest is lost, but one must think of saving the next. Already the next day, the winemaker begins again to give sulphur to heal the wounds of the survivors. It is necessary for the shoots to ripen so that the stumps, bearers of the coming year's hopes, have sufficient strength to survive the cold of winter. Such a disaster, of course, is exceptional.

 

If all goes well, the skin of the new shoots here and there is tinged with pink, then blue and black. The winegrower avoids going into his vineyards, knowing full well that it takes very little to irreparably spoil the young bunches. Peronospera can do nothing now, and the only danger still threatening them is grey mould, a tiny fungus that develops when the humidity is too high.

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