At Finca La Emperatriz,winter is the time for pruning; a practice we carry out with the objective of balancing each vine in order to prolong its life and ensure the high quality of the grapes harvested each year.
According to popular wisdom, pruning was invented by a donkey, when a farmer left it tied up in the vineyard while he worked in the field. The donkey wasted no time in stripping back a number of vines, and to the farmer’s great surprise these vines gave the greatest yield during the next harvest. That’s why it’s not unusual to hear someone say that “even donkeys can prune”.
This isn’t necessarily true, however, as pruning is a job that must be carried out very, very carefully in order to obtain the desired results.
On our estate, pruning takes place during the first quarter of the year, when the plant is in the dormant stage of its vegetative cycle. Normally we leave six shoots on each vine, with two buds on each shoot, although depending on how each plant is trained we may opt for different types of pruning. The shoots, or young growths, are the beginnings of the vine’s branches, which will develop during spring; each of them will provide us with two bunches of grapes. Using this system, we will obtain a maximum of 12 bunches per vine. To do the pruning we use a set of loppers, enormous shears that are operated using both hands.
The shoots we remove while pruning are incorporated back into the soil as organic material. We also use them in the barbecues that are so typical of the La Rioja region; out in the fields we like to grill lamb chops and other cuts over wood-burning barbecues fuelled by the prunings, which give the meat a special flavour.