John Kelso: Hey, Joe, what happened? Joe Odom: Oh, that Jim Williams went and shot somebody. Canapé? —Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Appropos of nothing, that movie quote. except when gerald and i are working in the vineyard at a certain time of year and the discussion centers upon the amount of leaves the vines are putting out. then we get the giggles. and a seemingly innocuous word, "canopy" becomes mangled...meaningless...as we adopt outlandish southern accents, imitating the characters from the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. the topic of our discussion?
leaf canopy management.
if you google leaf canopy management, you'll find many entries—many serious entries— regarding the care and techniques in working with the vertical and lateral shoots, the vine spacing, the types of trellising, the leaf removal from the east facing side to maximize the warming morning sun while protecting the grape clusters from the hot afternoon sun and at the same time, improving air circulation.
this is not that type of article.
here you see uncle pete and gerald looking through the leaf canopy. gerald had just finished telling uncle pete the best balanced canopy is where you can tell what shirt someone on the other side is wearing, but you can't see that person's face. just make you want to smile, doesn't it?
all goofiness aside, gerald had been to a vineyard management seminar at the linden vineyard (located in virginia), the previous sunday and learned quite a bit regarding how to work with the vineyard and the vine. being new to vineyard management, i don't profess to be an expert. i cannot even say i remember everything gerald spoke about while showing us how he needed to have us tend to the vines. what i am presenting today is a simple story of how uncle peter and i interpreted gerald's brief demonstration when we managed our rows' canopy. canopy management in the vineyard is a process of keeping the vine in balance throughout the growing season and essential to producing a grape in balance. an exuberant proliferation of leaves, while to a casual eye may seem like a thing of beauty, does nothing for the grape produced. the heaviness of leaf production can shade the grape clusters from the sun, resulting in impeding ripening affect the flavor structure. The lack of sun affects the color of the skins of the grapes, and since the grape skin contributes mightily to the color and flavour of the wine, you need that skin to reach its maximum potential. by removing the necessary leaves and lateral shoots, air circulation is improved and disease like rot and mildew can be prevented. remove too much, though, and the grapes could get sunburned or not ripen well. its a delicate balance.
first, gerald said it was important to remove the east-side facing leaves below the grape clusters. removing these leaves will help expose the grapes to the morning sun, a gentle warming action. later, when the sun rises overhead and starts on its western descent, the overhead and western facing canopy will protect the vineyard from the harsher afternoon rays. here, you see gerald demonstrating for uncle pete how and where to snap off the leaves and which lateral shoots should go. i came into the vineyard a little late on the demo, so uncle peter then gave me a recap of how to remove leaves and shoots as gerald moved on to his other vineyard chores.
the next series of images shows uncle peter demonstrating how you needed to look into the vine's canopy, find the grape cluster and start to work around, snapping off the leaves in front, making sure you don't accidently grab the cluster itself, and removing the shoots that were growing sideways (lateral). once you did this properly, there was the eastern-exposed cluster. uncle pete and i worked our respective rows that afternoon, snapping and pulling on the vines.
the last two small pictures are the resulting before and after picture. first, you'll see the canopy is dense and the clusters are shaded. the next image shows the cluster are now exposed and the air circulation has been improved. once i finished my row and looked back, i really got a sense of accomplishment.
i also feel i am beginning to understand the different varieties of grapes we are proofing grow in different ways. like the sangiovese—wildly exuberant—the row is like the big blond labrador retriever of our east vineyard. seeing the first row of the proofing vineyard just puts a smile on my face as i enter the vineyard. now, though, i see we need to put more discipline into the training of our puppies. on the other hand, we have a variety like the marchand—clearly the well-disciplined standard show poodle of the vineyard. here is a picture of a nicely structured marchand vine. i think this is how we'd like the vines and their vertical shoots to be placed. exceptionally pretty with the afternoon sun illuminating the leaves.