One of the key members of the New Zealand Wine Co-Op team is McArthur Ridge based down in the Central Otago and each month we’re going to bring you updates from the vineyard and let you into some little secrets of the trade, letting you know what happens at which points throughout the wine growing season.
McArthur Ridge is entirely dedicated to producing premium Central Otago Pinot Noir and they’ve had a huge amount of success since their first year in 2001, winning awards around the world.
Over the winter months the vineyard has been anything but idle. Murray and his team have been busy getting ready for the 2016 vintage. To have a successful vintage and produce only the best fruit you need to have great preparation. This has kept them busy ensuring each individual vine is ready.
Here’s a quick catch up on what’s happened so far and how they do the all important pruning…
Winter pruning started on Queens Birthday weekend (1st June) – just as the Alexandra Basin’s temperature starts to plummet. The majority of the vineyard is pruned with a technique called spur pruning.
This is where the previous seasons growth is pruned back to two bud spurs along the wire; the idea of this is that each bud will develop, producing two shoots on each spur and two bunches of grapes on each shoot. This gives Murray the ability to manage cropping levels and target how much fruit he wants on each vine, ensuring only high quality fruit is produced, and the tonnage per hectare.
The other form of pruning that Murray uses for one of the six clones of Pinot Noir vines on the vineyard is called cane pruning. This is where all the old wood on the wire is cut off and two new arms are laid back on the wire; the new arms are laid from replacement spurs that have been left from the previous year.
They choose cane pruning vs spur pruning because some clones crop differently on spur as they do on cane. The buds that have developed on the spurs have been grown in the cold part of spring and are sometimes less fruitful than those on a cane pruned vine that have buds along the cane that have developed throughout the growing season.
Pruning's now finished, Murray and his team are busy dropping the floating wires down, these are the wires that hold the canopy up during the growing season, they’re also checking frost fighting sprinklers, and checking and flushing the irrigation system.
The buds should start to burst in about another week, which means they have to protect the vines and new growth from powdery mildew and also from frost which can damage the vines/ shoots/flowers and fruit bunches any time from bud burst to harvest.
Keep an eye out for our next update when we catch up with Murray and the team and learn a bit more about how they grow amazing Pinot Noir grapes.
1. The 1st photo shows a spur-pruned vine, each spur has two growing buds alternately spaced.
2. The 2nd photo shows the vines looking down the rows. Having the permanent growing arms on the wires they become fat like the trunks, this provides carbohydrate storage for the vine and helps the vine get started in the early part of the season while the ground temperature is cold and the roots are not yet actively taking up nutrient.
3. The 3rd photo shows a cane-pruned vine, new arms on each side of the trunk, with a replacement spur below the wire, to provide wood for next year’s pruning.
4. Photo 4 shows looking down the row, you can see the trunks and new canes laid on each plant.