As the skies clear and the temperature slowly climbs, we realise we are beginning the gentle sway from winter to spring. This is a time of preparation for us, as we perform some essential maintenance on our beloved vines. Vineyards need TLC all year round, but the early months of the year are critical to ensure optimum soil health, vine pruning and vine training.
Healthy soil = happy vines
Soil health is important and encourages the growth of strong, healthy vines. Analysing soil helps us understand nutrient levels, so we can make better-informed choices all year round and provide additional support for the vineyard.
Within our twelve-acre plot, there are various soil types holding different levels of nutrients. This year, we have noticed a small plot of vines that didn’t grow quite as well as we’d hoped. Upon investigation, we’ve found that soil in this area has higher clay content and isn’t as fertile as the rest of the vineyard. To rectify this, we’ll plant alternate rows of beans and rye in between the vine rows as cover crops, which will re-balance the nutrient deficiencies. Later in the summer, these crops will be rollered flat to create a moisture-retentive plant ‘carpet’ as well as increased biodiversity in the soil.
Fine-tuning through pruning
Pruning vines is very similar to pruning roses. All growth from the previous season is removed, leaving behind the strongest canes to support next year’s production. 2022’s harvest was the first commercial vintage for Penn Croft since planting the vines in 2019.
Our pruning for this year and the last is based on a single guyot training system where each vine has one cane with approximately seven buds tied down to the trellising wires. In the coming years, as the vines mature, we are hoping to implement the Scott Henry training system. This has the potential to increase grape yields whilst maintaining quality, which will see four canes tied down to the trellising wires.
Sustainability at the heart of it all
The team continues to make Penn Croft vineyard as sustainable as possible by using low-impact methods and processes, and encouraging an environment that is rich in flowers. This not only promotes biodiversity but sustains natural insect predators. We have also been feeding wild birds with extra food to make sure they can survive the harsh winter weather.
Hopefully that gives you some insight into our pre-season preparations. If you’re still intrigued and would like to know more, consider visiting us for a tour of our winemaking process and our nearby vineyards.