A commonly asked question out on the vineyard is ‘why do your grapes grow so low?’ The type of vine training and the positioning of your grapes on the trellis depends on your location. Have I mentioned Nova Scotia is cool? Cool climate, yes. This means that we grow the grapes on the lowest trellising, close to the ground, like stockings hung on a low mantelpiece. It’s warmer down there at night, encouraging the grapes to ripen even when the sun goes down. This also allows a large feathery canopy of leaves for photosynthesis, like a great ostrich bottom turned up to the sun with its cracked, spindly trunk-like neck stuck into the ground.
So for the fingerpicking grape pickers it means you pluck upon your knees. Or, as some of the whistling old boys do, you sit on a bucket to save your joints from creaking like graveyard gates.
Trellising is usually constructed of metal or wooden posts with wire supporting the vines upright. Although there are a cajillion different ways of setting up your trellising, the main objective, like a cruise-ship sun lounger, is always to assist in sunbathing. Beaujolais will often use the ‘Gobelet’ method, attaching the vine to a stake and letting them grow freely; in Germany they will use the ‘Mosel Arch’, bending the canes into the shape of a heart and giving the appearance of a tree; in Greece they will protect the grapes from harsh winds by growing the fruit inside basket-like vines, cleverly called ‘Basket’ vine training.
We use the most common method, VSP (Verticle Shoot Position), meaning the vines grow skywards, and the fruit grow below the canopy. An ideal balanced structure would be 1/4 fruit and 3/4 leaf, leaving enough space for light and air around each bunch. As well as keeping the grapes warm, this method saves time on leaf and shoot thinning, as the grapes aren’t hidden in the shadows of the leaves. That’s why they’re low. Not, as some ray-of-sunshine remarked, because the Lucketts of Luckett Vineyards are notoriously short. No.
Being so exposed in a sizzlier climate could risk the grapes getting sunburnt, but there’s not much risk of that here. Have I mentioned it’s a cool climate here? It is, yes. Now we’ve picked the grapes… what happens next? Stay tuned you winos, you.