Pruning the vines of Pazo Baión: Why is so important?

Pruning the vines is a key activity to obtain grapes of excellent quality

Viticulture is a millenary science, dating back to the moment our ancestors understood that they could cultivate vines, produce grapes and use them to make such special products as wine. Like any science, it has its procedures, polished over the years and optimized thanks to technological advances. However, pruning the vines is one of the most important actions throughout the grape’s life cycle. So much so that the way the vines are pruned directly impacts the whole cycle and undoubtedly affects grape production.

Just as the grape harvest is the culminating moment in the art of vine cultivation. The days when the fruits of a whole year’s work are harvested. The weeks in which the vines are pruned mark the beginning of a new vintage. Performing this procedure with the utmost care and expertise, and planning precisely how it is carried out, is key to an excellent harvest.

Therefore, although pruning the vines goes unnoticed, its importance is comparable to that of the grape harvest. After all, poor pruning can lead to a disappointing harvest. Smart pruning of the vines, on the other hand, will have a positive impact on the crop harvested during the harvest.

Next, we will dissect why it is so important to prune the vines, relying on the knowledge and experience of the person who knows Pazo Baión’s vines best, Alberto Barral, head of viticulture at our winery.

The vegetative pause of the vine

The Vitis vinifera, popular as the vine, is a climbing plant that enters a vegetative standstill between leaf fall and the beginning of budding. This phase coincides with the end of autumn and the approach of spring. Hence, the months of January and February are marked by the remaining vines.

What does this rest imply? In the words of Alberto Barral, «the plant is in vegetative rest, there is no vegetative growth, and hardly any sap circulates through the shoots.»

The vine takes advantage of its well-deserved rest to regenerate, which is helped by the low winter temperatures. The hours of cold that the vines accumulate during these months are crucial in helping cure the wood so that the plant will bear fruit better in the new cycle.

During this phase, the vines store carbohydrates in their roots and trunk, which will be key for the new shoots to sprout from the buds after the end of the vegetative standstill. These shoots, in turn, will give rise to leaves, clusters, etc.

If pruning were to be done before the vine enters dormancy, the leaves would not yet have sent carbohydrates to the roots and trunk, which would mean that the shoots of new shoots would be weaker and would be produced later.

On the other hand, if pruning is carried out when the new sprouting has already begun, the resources that the vine has already sent to the pruned organs will be wasted.

Once the vine comes out of its vegetative standstill, it begins to grow, and, given its climbing nature, its growth can be disproportionate, reaching a size of 30 meters. It is, therefore, essential to control its growth. And that is where the task of pruning the vines comes into play, a process that anticipates this growth.

Pruning the vines guarantees their aging and protection

Pruning vines in winter to take care of them and limit their growth

Pruning is done in winter to take advantage of the scarce circulation of sap. The head of viticulture at Pazo Baión emphasizes that, in this way, «the loss of reserves for a correct development in the next campaign is minimized

By pruning the vines during their winter rest, the aim is to limit the extension of some shoots and eliminate others, to cut back the wood that is more than two years old and to control the number of vine buds, taking into account their fertility and the age of the vines.

Thus, the motivation for pruning the vines is not to obtain the greatest amount of grapes but rather to take care of the vine so that it will continue to give us its fruits for many years.

For example, a vine that grows without control weakens year after year, which affects its production and survival. On the other hand, pruning serves to renew its parts and lengthen its life.

On the other hand, if too many buds are left on the vine during pruning, the production of clusters will increase, but they will be smaller and of lower quality. More importantly, over-pruning can lead to a weakening of the shoots in the future.

As with almost everything in life, the most important thing when pruning vines is to find the right balance. In this case, between grape and wood production.

Spreading the load and optimizing vine yields

As we pointed out at the beginning, pruning the vines is an action that is carried out in winter, but its effects extend to the entire grape cycle. Thus, by eliminating shoots and selecting the best canes, the aim is to achieve an adequate load distribution. In what sense? Both in terms of the quantity and quality of the grapes obtained and the plant’s health.

Therefore, one of the most important aspects when pruning vines is the regulation of future shoots. That is to say, adjusting the number and position of the shoots that will be born so that, finally, the number and size of the bunches of grapes will be optimal, both in terms of their ripening process and the execution of the grape harvest.

The final objective is to obtain healthy grapes that stand out for their extraordinary quality.

Pruning the vines is part of the laborious and fascinating process of winemaking

The main benefits of pruning vines in winter

What are the main benefits of pruning? Alberto Barral, head of viticulture at Pazo Baión, points out the five keys to pruning, stressing its importance when it comes to managing the vineyards, caring for the vine and contributing to an excellent grape harvest:

  • Adapt the structure of the plant to the conduction system; in our case, it is the vine training.
  • Avoid premature aging of the plant.
  • Select the best canes for the next season’s production and thumbs so that we have a shot for the next pruning.
  • To regulate the production of the next harvest, pruning is necessary for us to have many bunches of grapes but of poorer quality.
  • To achieve homogeneous harvests in terms of quality and quantity.

Pruning the vines to produce the best wines.

The five benefits highlighted by Alberto Barral show that pruning plays a key role in winemaking. Although it may seem distant in time, pruning the vines is the first step in the choral work involved in making such complex and fascinating beverages as wines.

The cultivation of the vine is made up of many phases which accompany the plant’s annual cycle. All of them are relevant. And winter pruning certainly is since it plays a fundamental role in planning the harvest to be obtained.

Thus, pruning becomes crucial when obtaining more or fewer bunches of grapes, whether they are larger or smaller, whether their ripening is easier or more difficult, faster or slower, and whether they are more or less exposed to the weather.

Pruning the vines requires an in-depth knowledge of them and an awareness of their characteristics, but also of the characteristics of the wines we wish to make from them. This is because the vines are the keystone of winemaking. And the work of winegrowers consists of protecting them, managing their growth and helping them produce excellent quality grapes and remain healthy throughout their life.

Every vineyard is a world. And each wine has a unique personality inherited from the grapes used in its production.

The Vines of Baión, when pruning, is pure craftsmanship.

The vineyards of Pazo Baión are very special for many reasons. Starting with the fact that vines have been grown on our property for five centuries. But we are going to highlight three:

  • The extension. The plantation of Pazo Baión has 22 hectares, which makes it one of the most extensive of the D.O. Rías Baixas.
  • The average age. Our vines have a very advanced average age, which results in the extraordinary quality of the grapes they produce. So much so that the winery’s viticulture team calculates that the average age of the vineyards is between 40 and 45 years.
  • The destiny of their grapes. The grapes from all the Pazo Baión vines have only one destination: the production of the only single-estate Albariños.

All this makes Pazo Baión’s property unique. And therefore, its vineyards are cared for with the utmost delicacy. This means, according to Alberto Barral, that when it comes to pruning the vines:

  • Pruning is done by hand.
  • The same pruners always do the pruning. «Because they know the characteristics and ages of each plant and, thus, they can adapt it to their needs.»
  • Light pruning is carried out, considering that the Pazo Baión vineyards are very old, «to favor limited productions with a high aromatic load

In such a way, the process of pruning the vines becomes, in Pazo Baión, a handcrafted work. Designed and executed to the millimeter. An activity in which the winegrower and the plant merge, establishing a deep connection between them.

The art of pruning the vines may not have the same transcendence in the collective imagination as the grape harvest. But it is, of course, a fascinating process. And more importantly, it is essential to care for the vines and ensure that they give us grapes of the highest quality, with which to make wines brimming with personality and complexity.



Leave a Reply

Pazo Baión

Last News