On display at Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery are twelve wood carvings – one for each month of the year – each depicting an important part of the winemaking lifecycle. We’re diving into each month and where winemakers have traditionally kept their focus during that time in our editorial series, The Vintner’s Calendar.
Sebastiani’s wood carvings for June represent suckering, also known as shoot thinning. It’s one of the most critical vineyard management steps to ensure the fruit is growing at optimum speed and quality.
After bud break in the spring, the shoots of the vines begin to grow quickly as the weather gets warmer; some vines can even grow up to an inch a day! A few of the extra unwanted shoots that appear during this time are aptly named “suckers” because they tend to suck the water, energy, and nutrients from the main part of the vine.
In order to ensure that energy is being directed to the most important shoots, the vineyard teams are diligent about suckering – the process of removing the suckers that have emerged on the vine. Suckering is done by hand as the team passes through each vine in the vineyard, sometimes more than once depending on how much rain the area had recently received. Because the shoots are young and fragile, typically no tools are needed.
In the long run, suckering results in higher quality fruit; there will be fewer clusters of grapes but they’ll have a more concentrated flavor. Because of this, this shoot thinning process is one of the most important steps of vineyard management in the annual lifecycle.