A Cordon de Royat just about excactly as it should be. Loisy-en-Brie, January 13th.
Saturday afternoon we both spent in the vines, and that made me realize at least one thing. I actually did learn to prune the vines, when I followed the pruning course last spring. I even still remember the main principles of the art.
Very satisfactory, and quite practical as well, since we this year have a new plot and with that, double the amount of vines to prune. And the new vines are in a quite different and more miserable state than the old ones.
Very picturesque with this multi-amount of old stems. But not correct at all..
The best word to characterize the new plot seems to be: Exciting.
The former tenant has invented - so it seems - his own way of pruning. Most of all it looks like a kind of combination between the two most common styles: The Cordon de Royat and the Chablis.
For a start our target is to approach a correct Cordon de Royat.
Approaching the theory
In the vines - and least of all in this one - you are rarely very close to the theory. And as I sit on my little bench on wheels it is not incredibly present in my head anyway.
Concentration and cut-cut-cut.
As I catch the scissors from my pocket to start pruning, it all gently slides back into my mind. Like an oldfasioned locker for a Danish bicycle - in out in and so on - or a piece of music. Once you have learned it by heart, you better not start to think about what you are doing. You let the fingers take over, and will be fine. If not you have all chances not to remember the next step.
Pruning the vines is also a lot easier when you sit in front of the plants and use your methology without thinking too much. You check your plant, and then you let your brain and fingers take over without thinking too much. The rachet in the bottom for the renewal of the plant, then the prolongement in the end of the old, horizontal wood, the cordon and finally the possible number of fertile coursons. (Prolongement is fertile as well).
The most complicated job is to decide which elements in this mess you want to dismiss for good. Many of these vines have two or even more cordons. Often they are both in a miserable state. Very thin and fragile and with branches that seem very easy, far too easy to break. But if you have nothing good, you must try to select the least bad of the two.
Another problem, that is very frequent with these cordons, is that far too many stems have been allowed to grow. This means, that there are many and even strong branches at places where you really do not want them. You only keep stems that have a purpose for the production of grapes or as a renewal of the cordon. The rest should have been removed already when the buds became visible in spring last year. But they were not. This is one way of many to tell you, whether a tenant or owner of vines cares for what he is doing. In this region anyway.
Rotten grapes and small and bigger branches must be removed. Only little will remain. That is the aim.
It is not everything that is wrong though. For some reason there is a lot less of the Esca, that we unfortunately have seen and still see a lot in the other plot. Some conditions must be different and less fortunate for the development of the disease here.
To prune vines is a great occupation. I am still 100 percent convinced of that. Of course it is incredibly monotone to do same thing over an over again. 5.000 plants, one done 4.999 to go, up the row and down the row. But I guess since we can only work in the weekend, I never quite see it this way.
Not two plants are the same, so the pruning never becomes automatic. You need to concentrate to be able to do the right thing for the particular plant you are working with.
You spend your day outside, hear the wind whistle, the birds scream. Your main problem is to keep warm. But since we have almost 10 degrees Celsius this Saturday, I can stay several hours in the field, before my toes refuse to stay longer in the wellingtons.
Alain in front of a row of pruned vines.
Half a day of pruning reveals a couple of other things. One is that I actually have managed to obtain a methological way of pruning. This makes the job much more simple. On top of that my speed is quite okay for a beginner like myself. I am not able to finish all 100 meters of the first row in an afternoon, but I prune about one plant in five minutes, and manage to work myself a fair deal away from the starting point. Which is not bad at all.
We will continue in a week.
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