Crying vines

With all the bulk pruning work done at Belgian winery Pietershof, an interesting phenomenon appears in the vineyard: crying vines. A fancier name for this is Acqua Vitis or Lachryma Vitis.

How come?

With temperatures rising, the vine roots push nutritious sap, basically water and minerals through the vine veins, which are still open at the end of the pruned branches. Once the pruning wounds are properly closed, the bleeding will stop automatically.

In the old days, winegrowers would frantically collect these ‘tears’, famous for their alleged healing effects. Apparently, there are still a few farmers in Germany who are into sap collecting, and there are even commercial facial creams out there containing vine sap.

Hoax or not, the vine tears are a definite sign that spring is on its way, and that’s a good thing! Although there is still some work to be done.

Cutting the vine branches is not enough. The vine would grow into all directions if left alone. Therefore, the pruned branches need to be attached to the wires to guide them in the required direction. These wires and the supporting poles are called trellis.

Winegrower Albert uses a nifty tool to secure the wires, the Beli vine tying tool. This German brand uses galvanized wire and fastens it via a twist to the trellis. It sets you back a couple of hundred euros, but once you get the hang of it you twist better than Chubby Checker.

Once all the branches are fixed, they need to be checked on distance between neighbouring vines. If too close to each other, they could grow into each other, so need to be pruned a bit further. It’s not a matter of walking down the aisles and quickly cutting off wood. You really have to be careful where to make the cut, not taking out too many buds. No buds, no grapes.

When all the pruning and wiring is done, the vineyard is filled with piles of cut wood. That’s when the tractor comes into play. Shut off from the world and driven by classical notes, Albert will be shredding his way through the aisles, using the mulch as cover between the vines.

Next post on Pietershof will be on the fatal ESCA vine disease, and the ways Albert and his team look for disease prevention and salvation of infected vines.

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