This year’s growing season at De Toren started off with a bang. Our budding began in the first week of September with Malbec and Merlot leading the pack and our Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot not far behind. We are nine weeks into our growing season and all the varieties on the farm are already at flowering stage.

When pruning finishes and budding begins, our vineyard team focuses on managing our canopy. Canopy management is carried out primarily to ensure that every vine is in balance. The balance we are looking for is between a vine’s vegetative growth and the number of bunches it carries and can ripen to perfection.

Vegetative growth can be described as the growth and energy a vine channels into the development of its shoots and leaves. In order for a vine to ripen the fruit it bears, an adequate number of leaves per shoot are required. These leaves are the factories of the vine and use photosynthesis to produce and translocate sugars and other molecules to the berries.

When a vine is overly vigorous and directs its photosynthetic energy to excess vegetative growth, a dense canopy will result. A dense canopy can have a number of negative implications. Reduced air movement in a dense canopy can increase disease pressure and the possibly of fungal rot developing on the bunches. Reduced sun exposure in the canopy will also affect the fertility of the buds on shoots that will produce the crop for the following season.

Canopy management encompasses multiple actions, which include pruning, shoot thinning, suckering, shoot positioning, leaf removal and tipping and topping. At the moment we are already halfway through applying the second suckering action on our 22 ha under vine.

The first and second round consists of removing unwanted budding shoots on the vine that will not be bearing fruit later in the season or allow for pruning renewal in the next pruning season. Pruning renewal is a topic we will cover in an upcoming article closer to pruning time.

The third suckering action will be shoot positioning and lateral shoot removal. Once the bunches have started developing we will position the shoots in such a way that the bunches are not crowding each other. Lateral shoots are additional shoots that sprout from the primary shoots bearing the fruit. These shoots start appearing in the second half of the growing season and will need to be removed to prevent the canopy from becoming overly dense.

Leaf removal will also be happening shortly when we remove leaves in the lower part of the canopy and expose our bunches to sunlight. We do this between set and pea berry stage and it increases the exposed bunches’ resistance to sunburn and helps the ripening process.

We have been fortunate to have warm, dry weather and look forward to seeing what this season brings us in the upcoming 2016 harvest!