It is one of the hardest jobs because of the time of the year and the weather conditions in which it is carried out, but pruning is also crucial in order to obtain top quality grapes. We spent a day in the vineyard to see the process up close and talk to Susana, Julia and Orlita, three of the most experienced pruners in our vineyard team.
Pruning at Abadía Retuerta began at the end of November and is set to continue until the end of February. This year, a crew of around 20 workers had to endure storm Filomena, which pushed temperatures down to -12ºC.
Snow does not fall every year, but damp morning mists near the Duero River and frosts are commonplace in this area with an extreme continental climate.
Scissors in hand, Susana González, Julia Gómez and Orlita Casado, three experienced members of Abadía Retuerta’s vineyard team, are busy pruning to double Guyot the Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Pradera del Convento, a vineyard right opposite the abbey. Interestingly, all three agree that, despite the harsh working conditions, pruning is one of their favourite tasks.
Pruning helps to define the shape of the plant by removing the vegetative parts (canes, shoots, arms…) and thus limiting the amount of grapes for the next harvest: the number of bunches we want to have per plant and their size will influence the quality and concentration of the grapes that will eventually be harvested.
Furthermore, the pruning method used will significantly extend the life of the vine, as the so-called “pruning wounds” are one of the most common ways for fungal diseases to infect the plant. It is therefore important to have well-trained professionals who understand the plants’ physiology and do not interrupt their sap flow.
Susana, Julia and Orlita all hail from small villages near the winery. Julia even spent her childhood in Abadía Retuerta at a time when many of the estate’s workers, such as her parents and grandparents, lived on its grounds. She has 24 years’ experience in the vineyard, the last 13 at Abadía. She now feels that, in a way, she has returned to her origins. For Julia, the hardest part of pruning is the cold. “I’m very sensitive to the cold; my hands and feet are always freezing, but I love the job”, she says.
Born in San Bernardo, Orli has been working on the estate for 23 years. Experience is a bonus and that is evident in her speed and manual dexterity. She suffers the cold like her colleagues, but confesses that her particular Achilles’ heel is the wind.
Susana, another seasoned veteran who has been working at Abadía Retuerta since 1994, points out that the use of electric scissors has made their work much more comfortable.
By the time these lines are published, the three of them will be pruning their final vines of the year.