Defoliating the Cabernet
Canopy management is one of the most important vineyard operations before the harvest
The Cabernet Sauvignon of La Vota vineyard is a thick wall of leaves, it’s green arms raised to the sun, flexible shoots waving in the air, a tangled and intertwined forest that shines and whispers and hisses in the wind.
The clusters are hidden deep inside the shady belly of that forest, slowly turning from green to opalescent blue, glowing in their pruinose wrap. The berries are small and round, mildly sour and astringent today, but already on their way to imminent ripening.
We walk into the rows to defoliate.
It’s a slow meticulous work: you first raise the branches that almost touch the ground, fixing the edges on top of the trellis, rolling them around the upper wire. We’ve got five wires, but even if we had a sixth it probably won’t still be high enough to keep all the shoots in place. The result is a green fence taller than a man.
Then, you plunge your arms into that green wall, brushing past the leaves to reach the clusters, and you start to clear some space tearing the surplus leaves off: big leaves and tiny ones, dead leaves, young suckers and small sprouts, green clusters that are too small and immature to get ripe, dried raisins caused by a bad flowering. You discard the unnecessary and only keep the essential, with the purpose of giving body and intensity to the wine-to-be.
And all those leaves and shoots and sprouts and clusters that are now laying on the ground may well be unnecessary, but they are not worthless, for they are coming back to where they belong, giving strength and nutrition to the vines, in the endless cycle of life.