Preparation for T-budding

January 5, 2012




Deciding what kind of vines to plant  in a vineyard is a complicated task. You won’t get any fruit off of the vines for a minimum of three years, and they may not reach their full production until as many as seven years after planting. Trends in wine consumption can vary wildly from year to year so it is possible that, by the time the vines you have planted begin to bear fruit, the demand for those grapes may be much lower or higher than you had originally expected.

Fortunately, a vineyard is not necessarily locked into the variety it was originally planted to. Through a process known as ‘T-budding’, you can actually transform a grapevine, causing it to produce a different variety of grape than it was originally planted to.

Here at Amapola Creek, demand for our Cuvee Alis (a blend of Syrah and Grenache) has actually started to outstrip our supply. This, of course, is the right side of the coin to be on.

In order to keep up with the demand for Cuvee Alis, we are planning to T-bud some of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines from the China Bowl vineyard over to Grenache and Mouvedre (Mouvedre is another red variety that is commonly blended with Syrah and Grenache). It will take a few years for these vines to start producing at their full capacity, but once they do they should almost double the amount of Cuvee Alis we are able to make.

This is one of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines that we are going to bud over. Now that we are well into winter, all of the leaves are gone and the vine is completely dormant.

T-budding involves grafting new tissue onto the old grapevine. This  will happen in late Spring, once the vines are growing vigorously. This is so that the grafts will be able to bind quickly to the vine and begin to grow right away, before any fungi or bacteria are able to infect the site of the graft.

This time of year, we are getting ready for T-budding by pruning the vines in a special way that will allow them to grow very vigorously in the Spring.

Here is a vine that has just been pruned in expectation of T-budding. Note how each of the canes left is fairly long, maybe eight inches to a foot. Normal winter pruning would leave each one only a few inches long, which would reduce the potential size of the plant during the growing season and keep it appropriately balanced to produce fruit of the quality we want. In the case of the vines we are going to T-bud, we actually want the plant to get very large so that it will be as strong as possible and the grafts will have an easy time taking hold.

It was something of a tough call to decide that we were going to graft over some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines, because in our opinion the wine they were producing was really lovely. The Cuvee Alis, however, is unique to us, and so we ultimately decided that it was worth a small sacrifice to the Cab program to keep such an interesting wine in supply.

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


4 Responses to “Preparation for T-budding”

  1. […] we began pruning our Estate vineyards in preparation for the Spring. As you may recall, we began pruning some of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines down in the China Bowl recently in order to […]

  2. […] you may remember, we are planning to T-bud some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines over to other varieties in the Spring. T-budding requires some […]

  3. […] you may recall, we are converting a portion of the Cabernet Sauvignon that we have planted in the China Bowl […]

  4. […] The process of converting vines from one variety to another is somewhat involved; it requires special pruning during the winter, followed by topping and stripping the bark from the vines in the days leading up […]

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