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more clusters than most varieties can support, so some of them must be removed, dependent on variety. For example, Chardonnay and Pinot gris will probably support two clusters per shoot, but Pinot noir may have to be thinned to one cluster per shoot. You will have to use judgment on cluster thinning. What size crop has your site supported in past years? This is also a good time to remove the shoulders from clusters if you are aiming for super premium wines. While you’re examining clusters, it’s a good time to remove a few leaves, not a lot, just one leaf below each cluster. This will increase air flow to the clusters and provide dappled sun exposure. Early exposure such as this minimizes the chance of sunburn on the clusters. If your vineyard has a history of sunburn on the southern or western exposure, then perhaps pull leaves only on the northern and eastern exposure. Early-season cluster exposure provides several advantages. The berries develop tougher skin, more resistant to infection. They develop better colour and more intense varietal character, accompanied by better phenolic development.

Another interesting phenomenon is that early cluster removal has little effect on yield. The later in the season that clusters are thinned, the more yield will be lowered. I have really strong aversion to throwing fruit on the ground. Fruit belongs in the picking bin!

The whole metabolism of your vineyard changes as soon as it sets fruit. Up to the point of fruit set, your plants have been growing canes to create a sugar factory to support fruit development. Shoot growth is strong and can be almost explosive if there is enough water and nutrient. After fruit set, you typically notice that internode length begins to shorten. The vineyard requires as little as half the irrigation that it required during May and June. If you like to hedge and top, you can continue to supply lots of water and watch the shoots develop into a forest instead of an orderly canopy. I dislike throwing canes on the ground almost as much as I dislike throwing fruit on the ground.

The ultimate objective throughout the growing season should be that everything that grows in your vineyard contributes to your income. Throw nothing away.


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British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016 29

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