Trellising, the traditional vine training system in the Rías Baixas

Trellising is the predominant vine training system in the Rías Baixas

The low and medium vineyards of Pazo Baión have trellising as a vine training system to keep the vines away from the humidity of the soil and help them to capture all the sunlight

Each vineyard is a world of its own because it has its own orography, soils, climate, and vine training system that make it unique. Precisely, how vine growth is managed is a vitally important issue when it comes to regulating grape production and achieving the best harvest. Trellising, in-line trellising, goblet… There are different types of systems, and none of them is better or worse, but each of them is more optimal depending on the characteristics of the area, the vineyard, and the grape variety it produces.

In two appellations of origin as geographically close as the DO Rías Baixas and the DO Ribeiro, both focused on the production of white wines with native varieties, the vine training system is different. In Ribeiro, the vertical trellis system prevails, while in Rías Baixas, the trellising system is used as the primary vine training system. Why is this the case? Because there are differences in the soil, the vineyards’ topography, the areas’ climate, and the grape varieties grown. Neither treixadura is the same as albariño, nor the environment of the region of O Ribeiro has anything to do with that of O Salnés.

Even on the same property, two different vine-growing systems can coexist—for example, Pazo Baión. In the low and medium vineyards of our estate, we use the traditional trellising training system of O Salnés. While in the high vineyards, less humid and more exposed to drought in summer, the in-line trellising is used.

Next, we will dissect the keys to trellising and delve into the vine training systems at Pazo Baión, a property where albariño wines have been produced for five centuries.

What is trellishing?

Let’s start at the beginning… what is trellising? It is a horizontal vine training system that uses posts (usually made of granite) and wires to make the vines grow horizontally, forming a green mantle composed of branches and leaves from which the bunches of grapes will hang. In this way, the clusters of grapes will grow two meters above the ground, away from its humidity and closer to the sun.

The trellising system has been used in the Rías Baixas area since time immemorial, as it has proved to be an appropriate way of training the vines, taking into account the climatic and geographical characteristics of the region and the particularities of the albariño grape and the vine from which it grows.

Trellising is an optimal vine training system thanks to the fact that the Rías Baixas vines are vigorous, allowing them to climb the trellises high up and optimize their vegetative growth, a vital issue for the grape harvest.

In addition, we can point out another reason why trellising triumphed in the Rías Baixas and is not related to the harvest of grapes for winemaking: the use of the soil. As the vines grow horizontally, the ground under the branches and grapes could be used to produce other natural products. Today we live in an era of bonanza, but it was essential to make the most of the available soil in ancient times.

The massive use of trellising in the Rías Baixas over the centuries has meant that the art of grape harvesting is still carried out in a very similar way to hundreds of years ago. Why? Unlike other vine training systems, trellising does not facilitate the mechanization of grape harvesting, so at Pazo Baión and many other wineries in the Rías Baixas, the grape harvest is still carried out manually, bunch by bunch, berry by berry.

Trellising is used in the middle and lower plots of Pazo Baión

Benefits of trellishing in Rías Baixas

As we pointed out in the previous section, the traditional use of trellising in the Rías Baixas is not the result of chance. Still, it is a direct consequence of the multiple benefits of this type of vine training, depending on the characteristics of the area, the plant, and the grape:

  • The trellishing moves the leaves, the vine shoots, and the grapes away from the soil and its humidity, a direct consequence of the climatology of the Rías Baixas and the abundant rainfall.
  • On the other hand, it brings the leaves and grapes closer to the sun, increasing their exposure surface and capacity to benefit from the sun’s rays and improve their growth and ripening.
  • Trellising makes it easier for the bunches to be well-aerated.
  • The above benefits result in an issue of vital importance: the prevention of fungal diseases affecting the grapes, such as mildew or powdery mildew, which can destroy the harvest.
  • It enables organic fertilization of the vines.
  • It facilitates the management of vineyards and harvests, balancing them so that they are as optimal as possible, both in terms of quantity and quality.
  • Although it may not seem beneficial, the impossibility of using machinery to manage vineyards that use trellising encourages wineries to opt for sustainable and artisanal viticulture. Pruning and harvesting are carried out manually by highly specialized viticulture teams.

What are the disadvantages of this vine training system? In addition to the fact that it prevents mechanization and, therefore, the streamlining of the actions to be carried out throughout the vine’s life cycle, vine training allows a lower density of vines than other systems, such as vertical trellising.

Trellising at Pazo Baión

As we have already pointed out on other occasions, Pazo Baión has the privilege of being a vineyard property located in the heart of the Rías Baixas. Our estate is situated in the valley of O Salnés, just five kilometers from the Arousa estuary, and protected from the wind by the Lobeira mountain, which reaches a height of almost 300 meters above sea level.

In addition, the orography of the terrain and the layout of the vineyards cause Pazo Baión to have a unique microclimate, more temperate and less marked by inclement weather than the mild Atlantic climate typical of this area. This microclimate favors the growth of the vines and grape clusters and, together with the peculiarities of the soil of Pazo Baión, determines the characteristics of each of our vineyards.

On the other hand, the rugged topography of the plots of our property leads us to differentiate in Pazo Baión between three large groups of vineyards: low, medium, and high. Almost all of them are oriented towards midday, which favors the cultivation of the vine even in cold situations and results in a higher quality of the wines produced with the harvested grapes.

Beyond the concordances, the differences in altitude and soils allow us to differentiate between three large groups of vineyards in Pazo Baión: low, medium, and high. The low and medium vineyards share the same vine training system: trellising.

The planting density of these vineyards is 830 vines per hectare, and the vine training system is, as we have just pointed out, a trellising system of 2 meters high, supported on granite posts. The vines that grow in these vineyards resist phylloxera well, are tolerant to excess humidity, and, thanks to the trellising, can move away from the humidity of sleep, as well as showing the vigorous development typical of the Albariño variety.

The trellising allies with vines that are half a century old to offer an extraordinary grape production with which to produce splendid albariños. In addition, visually, it forms a vineyard landscape that stands out for its unique beauty. Beautiful green tunnels extend through almost 15 hectares of vineyards.

In addition to trellising, Pazo Baión also uses espalier as a vine training system

In-line trellising, the other vine training system at Pazo Baión

What about the high vineyards at Pazo Baión, isn’t trellising used as a vine training system? No, in the vineyards located on top of the hills of our property, the technique used is in-line trellising. The vine is a vertical growing plant, which allows the trellis to be used as a training system and the in-line trellising. This system structures the vine’s growth and gives it shape, aiming to improve its yield and protect the grapes from the appearance of diseases.

Why is it used? Unlike the medium and low vineyards, these are not so exposed to the humidity of the soil, which is also thinner. While in the other plots, it is essential to keep the leaves and grapes away from the humidity of the ground, in these plots, it is optional, so trellising is unnecessary.

This is associated with the characteristics of the plants themselves. Those in the medium and low vineyards are prepared to resist excess humidity. In contrast, those in the high vineyards are more resistant to lack of water, since drought conditions, especially during the summer, are much more demanding than in the vineyards where trellising is used.

The high plots have an extension of slightly more than new hectares, in which there are about 11,000 plants, thanks to the trellis allowing a higher density. And, as we have pointed out, the vine training system is the 1.8-meter tall trellis, also on granite posts, as is the case with the vineyards where trellising is used.

In the high vineyards of Pazo Baión, as in the medium and low vineyards, no mechanized work is carried out.

The pruning operations, the removal of shoots, or the tying up of the vines on the wires that make up the trellises and in-line trellises are entirely manual. They are carried out by our viticulture team, who have extensive experience in the care of the vine and know perfectly the particularities of each vineyard.

Trellising and in-line trellising, two systems at the service of the unique single-estate Albariños

The use of trellising and in-line trellising as vine training systems at Pazo Baión allows us to observe the key to this issue: the important thing is to choose the system that is most beneficial for the vines and grapes, depending on the soil, topography, climate or variety.

Both systems can coexist on the same property because the differences between vineyards can be significant enough to justify the choice of different vine training systems.

In fact, at Pazo Baión, we can not only highlight the combined use of trellising and trained vines, but we also have to highlight one of the keys to our harvest: each vineyard is harvested separately when the ripening conditions of the grapes are optimal. And this allows us to squeeze the nuances of each vineyard to make the only single-estate albariños, that is, wines made only with the grapes harvested on the property.

The professionals at Pazo Baión carry out an integral management of the entire life cycle of each vineyard to take utmost care of an extraordinary raw material that will allow us to produce three Albariños with a very marked personality. Pazo Baión, Gran a Gran, and Vides de Fontán are three wines that come from the same property but which, at the same time, have different and unique aromatic compositions, mouthfeel, and structure.

Trellising and in-line trellising help our vines, which are almost half a century old, to grow solid and produce sensational grapes that will give birth to three handcrafted Rías Baixas, from pruning to bottling.



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