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Learning the art of pruning the vines


Last Sunday we were welcomed to Domaine Chapelle in the Burgundy village of Santenay for a Wine Discovery Experience Day.  The aim of the day was to learn more about the work of the winemaker in the vineyard to cultivate the vines.

Jean-François Chapelle, the owner of the winery, recounted his family’s involvement at the winery over the generations, and introduced us to a brief history of winemaking in Burgundy and the organisational changes that happened throughout the 20th century.  We also talked about Jean-François’ philosophy of organic winemaking that he introduced to the winery in the early 2000s.

Learn about the vineyard in Burgundy with a vine adoption

We headed out into the vineyard to meet our adopted vines and to take a few photos.  There are two plots for the Gourmet Odyssey adopt-a-vine experience at Domaine Chapelle.  The Clos des Cornières vineyard, planted with Pinot Noir used to make the red wine of the same name, and the adjacent Les Crais vineyard, planted with Chardonnay to make the Santenay Village white wine.

Simon, Jean-François’ son and successor, then started to talk about the different work that is carried out in the vineyard throughout the lifecycle from one harvest to another, with the aim of producing the optimum quality of grapes.

Gift box organic wine experience day in Burgundy

From the harvest through to December, little is done in the vineyard.  Sometimes a task known as pre-pruning can be carried out whereby the top half of the branches are cut away mechanically to make the pruning that follows easier and quicker.  The vineyard team starts to repair the trellis system where needed at this time too, a task that will be finished before spring sets in and the vines start to grow again.

Starting in December, each vine is pruned manually using one of two techniques:
- The Cordon de Royat method leaves four to five short spurs, each with two eyes on them, on the old wood that grows along the training wire.  Fruit-bearing branches will grow from each of these spurs.
- The Guyot method is a little different and more productive.  Just one branch is selected and cut to about 50-60 cm, or 5 to 6 eyes.  A spur is also left which will form the long branch to be used next year.  The long branch is then attached to the bottom training wire.

Organic vine adoption in Santenay, Burgundy, France

The Guyot method is reserved for chardonnay vines in Burgundy, as it is a vine that can support producing a little more.  The pinot noir vines are pruned using the Cordon de Royat method.  Once all of the vines have been pruned, a team passes through the vineyard again to pull the cut wood away from the vines and trellis system, burning the cut branches or crushing them to return nutrients to the soil.

It takes roughly four months to prune all of the vines which cover the 18 hectares of vineyards at Domaine Chapelle.

From around mid-April and depending on the temperature, the buds will start to burst.  Spring is an important period of growth, and many manual tasks are necessary to help nurture the vines through the cycle. De-budding, removing the leaves, raising the training wires…  All of this to help the grapes reach their optimum, and to do so means hiring a small group of 10 seasonal workers to give a helping hand to the permanent team.

During the summer period the vines will be treated using the copper sulphate treatment that is authorised in organic winemaking.  The frequency of treatments depends on how often it rains, but on average it’s every 15 days or so until one month before the harvest.

Sometime in September, depending on the maturity of the grapes, the harvest will start and the yearly cycle will come to a close once more.

Organic Burgundy wine tasting

After this very informative morning, we headed back to the winery for the aperitif, the excellent Santenay Saint Jean white from the winery.
Lunch was a typical Burgundy affair.  A fish terrine, boeuf bourguignon, regional cheeses and a chocolate, pear and blackcurrant desert. We tasted three different reds, the red Burgundy, a 2015 Santenay Clos des Cornières, and a 2011 Santenay Comme Premier Cru.

We finished this enlightening day with a visit of the cellar.

Gift box vinae adoption and cellar visit in Burgundy

The next bottle of wine that we open will be appreciated in a different light and we look forward to coming back for the harvest when the grapes have grown and become ripe!

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