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Budburst marks the start of seasonal growth and with it ‘summer maintenance’ – a series of tasks aimed at limiting yields and promoting good-quality fruit.
The first job, in mid May, is to desucker the vines: remove any non-fruitful shoots (‘suckers’), encouraging the vine to focus its energies on the fruit-bearing shoots. This is another manual activity, executed by the winegrower where necessary.
By the end of May, the shoots are 50 centimetres long. They must now be raised from the ground and attached vertically to wires running some 30 centimetres above the main support wires.
This vertical positioning of shoots is what gives the vines their architecture, also making it easier for operators to do their work. Since not all shoots are the same length and some are not naturally inclined to go vertical, lifting is a delicate business.
June is the time for trellising: separating the shoots and stapling them to wires. This prevents the leaves from crowding each other, allowing maximum light penetration and also encouraging air circulation that prevents rot.
Trellising is essential for Champagne vines since high-density planting significantly increases Trellising is manual labour and very time-consuming.
the leaf area index. The dense leaf canopy must be evenly distributed between the vines, and along the full length and height of each plant (maximum standing height, 1.30 metres).
Pinching back is part of summer thinning. It commences in mid-June or early July, before or after flowering, and is repeated twice and sometimes as often as four times in a season.
Pinching back is essential in Champagne to prevent the vine from producing foliage at the expense of fruit.