Cluster thinning

September 23, 2011

We’re in a bit of a lull as we wait for our next load of grapes to ripen up, so we’re taking advantage by doing some last minute vineyard work on the Estate Petite Verdot. This year saw late rains in spring, so we decided not to thin our clusters out until late in the game. The risk was that rain during flowering may have caused ‘shattering’, meaning that the flowers fail to form into mature grapes. In that case, thinning while the clusters are too young may result in too little crop. Waiting until all of the clusters were set and starting to mature allowed us to see how much fruit we actually had in the field (plenty, it turns out, our Petite Verdot is generally a very productive block), which in turn allows us now to properly thin the fruit and crop the vines at the optimal level.

Thinned clusters are left in the vineyard row to compost back down into the soil.

It is always a little heartbreaking to see fruit on the ground, but when you’re making the finest wines possible it is vital to make sure the vines are in balance. If there is too much fruit, the fruit will not ripen completely. Too little fruit, and the resulting wine will have green, vegetal characters. As Richard is fond of saying, it’s better to have 80% that’s perfect than 120% that’s mediocre.

Here’s what a well maintained, properly cropped Petite Verdot vine looks like! Note how the leaves have been thinned out around the fruit; this allows in light, which helps the fruit mature and reduces vegetal characters, and it also allows air to flow through the canopy, which helps control mildew and fungus without resorting to the use of chemical fungicides. Also note how the fruit that is left is allowed to hang with plenty of space between clusters, this is another technique for letting air and light reach the fruit.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main website, please click here.

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