From Vine to wine
The pruning techniques used in Champagne have been strictly regulated since 1938. Champagne is the only AOC to have laid down such a precise and comprehensive set of rules for pruning.
Pruning is the most fundamental of all the vineyard tasks. Precise, expert pruning is essential for the quality of the harvest. It regulates growth, promotes productivity and encourages good ripening. Pruning commences immediately after the harvest, as soon as the leaves start to fall, and continues until mid-December. It resumes in mid-January, after the dormant winter period, and continues until late March.
There are four approved pruning methods.
Before the first snip of the pruning shears, the winegrower must assess the following factors:
The first purpose of pruning is to encourage the sap to flow toward the fruit-bearing buds. The buds require an even distribution of sap for vigorous growth but excess sap may compromise productivity. Ideally, there should be a good balance of vigour and productivity – two conflicting requirements that are not easily reconciled.
The choice of pruning method helps to attain this balance. Long-pruned canes restrict the flow of sap, making for a better distribution of sap along the length of the cane, so boosting the vine’s vigour, but preventing excessive flow to the buds, so boosting productivity. Long pruning encourages this process by creating knots that further regulate sap flow.
Le choix du type de taille permet d’atteindre cet équilibre. Avec une charpente longue, la sève circule difficilement. Ainsi, d’une part elle se répartit mieux le long du sarment, ce qui favorise la vigueur, et d’autre part évite les excès d’irrigation des bourgeons, ce qui favorise la fertilité. La taille longue accentue ce phénomène, car elle crée des nœuds qui ralentissent encore la circulation de la sève.
Balancing the shape of the vinee
Pruning gives the vine its shape and prepares it for summer maintenance. The aim is to avoid tightly packed foliage and aim for an optimal leaf area index that allows maximum light penetration and space for air to circulate between the clusters.
Balancing vine lifespan and productivity
Pruning also determines the vine’s life expectancy, which is shortened by excessive productivity. Regular rejuvenation pruning can solve the problem by stimulating the buds from which new growth will arise to replace old wood.
Tying-up happens in the course of pruning, in early April. The shoots are wound around the supporting wires then attached with paper-covered wire or some other biodegradable fastening. Tying up is done by hand and requires swift, nimble fingers.