Kernling grapes are a first cross from Riesling, a slightly earlier clone of Kerner,  ripening to rose-red (below). They make a Riesling style wine that we make dry.

The vines have a bushy habit and an anarchic tendency, growing any way but up. Half of ours are pruned using the traditional, replacement-cane method known as double Guyot.  Every year two fresh canes from the crown of the plant are tied down to the lowest wire, and the fruiting shoots grow upwards from those canes’ buds. The remaining wood is pulled out. The growing shoots are corralled with some difficulty to grow vertically, using two sets of movable double wires and a lot of persistence. 

The winter framework of a Guyot-pruned Kernling vine is upper right and, the full canopy, just before harvest, right.

Kernling doesn't fruit on canes coming from the first few buds of the previous year's growth, so it does not respond well to less-labour-intensive spur-pruning. We tried it once, got a very small crop, learned our lesson and now replacement-cane prune all our Kernling.

n 2006 we experimented in the Kernling at the bottom of the slope, training the replacement canes along the top wire rather than the bottom, letting the leaf shoots flop downwards under their own weight. Why fight them, we thought. This was quite successful, saving summer trimming and tying-in, and we extended the method to the rest of that block in 2007. The vines are now at easy chest-height for pruning and picking and the vines are at the top of the canopy for good sun exposure. But the down-side is the big basal leaves and side-shoots try to climb back upwards around the fruit in late summer, crowding it and given half a chance, encouraging mildew, so we have to de-leaf around the grape bunches by hand. Because of this slow work the total canopy-management time is about the same as the traditional trellis.

Overall this high-training is worth it, on balance, at the bottom of the vineyard mainly to combat badgers from the nearby sett and spring frosts. High training keeps the grapes safely out of reach of both.  The top block is too far from the badgers and too high for frost, so we are keeping the double-Guyot there,

High-trained vines are shown above right in early summer and,  right, winter framework under snow, showing how the canes drop down.

Madeleine Angevine

Madeleine Angevine grapes ripen golden, pictured top. The vines have a strong upward growth habit, positioning themselves with little intervention. They respond well to spur pruning and until 2013 that is how they were pruned at Oatley.

Permanent cordons were trained along a wire at hip height and the new shoots grew upwards from 2-bud spurs. A vertical-shoot-positioned canopy looks similar in the summer whether it is spur- or replacement-cane-pruned, but you can see the difference in the winter. The horizontal cordons in spur-pruning get old and gnarled, rather than having a new cane each year. Just the spur wood is new. Winter spur-pruned canes pictured right x2.

With spur pruning you can pre-trim mechanically - we used an electric hedge trimmer - lighter and quieter than a petrol one, This made the follow-up of hand-pruning down to two buds on each cane really quick.  These days we use battery secateurs for the hand-pruning; easier on the hands for old, hard wood, though a bit scary till you get used to them.

But for the 2013 vintage we reverted to replacement cane pruning for the Madeleine Angevine. Some of the old cordons had developed trunk diseases. These are slow-developing fungal infections that get in through pruning cuts and build up over the years. Replacement-cane pruning means less cuts for the plant to heal each year, and allowed us to cut out the infected cordons. We had also had two cold early-Julys in a row, which means the early buds on the cane were less fruitful than ones further up the canes, which had been formed in warmer weather later in the previous year. So we were looking to increase our yield in two ways, by replacing diseased wood with new, and by using the full length of the cane with the later-formed buds, not just the first two as on  spurs. This was successful, we had a really good yield of 4 tons/acre in 2013, similar to 2009 and not far behind out biggest-ever  crop in 2006. So we shall be staying with replacement-cane (aka double Guyot) pruning for the Madeleine.

Summer canopy-management

The vine canopies start to grow long in July and need to be topped (right), then the side-shoots grow and by August the sides and top need to be trimmed fully to give that traditional manicured look. This is necessary with vertical-shoot-positioned pruning, not just aesthetic. It’s to give the grapes, which are at the bottom of the canopy in this method, sun-exposure to keep them mildew-free and to developi good flavour in the skins. It also helps bud development for next year by giving maximum sun exposure to the canes. The amount of fruit in a bud is proportionate to the  warmth and light it receives in the preceding summer when the buds are forming.

We use battery-powered hand-held hedge-trimmers to keep the hedges thin. We also take off the lower leaves over the fruit as we go with the trimmers, so the fruit is exposed completely.

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Vine varieties