Pruning workshop a grape success

Radical change offers long-term benefit to vine health and productivity

Winemakers from around Victoria were recently given a radical new way of approaching vine pruning at a workshop facilitated by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).

Up to 50 people huddled against the cold in the Brown Brothers winery vines at Milawa to hear from oenologist and viticulturist Mia Fischer.

Fischer, from vine pruning consultants Simonit and Sirch, presented detailed information on pruning grapevines for longevity.

Fischer studied in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and worked for almost a decade in ultra-premium wine production and now operates in both USA and Australia as trainer and manager with Simonit and Sirch.

The workshop began with a seminar on the theory behind the method and then moved into the vineyard where participants had a chance to practise what they had learned.

Stuart Smith, from Vinelea Wines in Beechworth, said the workshop was very successful.

“There were 50 people at the workshop; from as far away as the Pyrenees (Ararat region), Bellarine (Geelong) and Yarra Valley but the local regions were well represented with grape growers from the King and Alpine valleys, Rutherglen and Beechworth,” he said.

“Fifteen of the attendees were from Beechworth, which was excellent as it was arranged by Beechworth locals.

“The workshop was great; it presented an alternative way to think about vine pruning that leads to better vine health, productivity and longevity.

“Mia was keen to get across the point that it is a long term strategy for vine and vineyard health, and not a quick fix.

“There was a lot of positive feedback, and many really probing questions, particularly at the field demonstration.

“People overall thought it was extremely well presented and thought-provoking.

“What we learned was that the traditional way we have all learned to prune, which focusses on a neat vineyard and a lot of savage pruning, has a long term detrimental effect on the vines health.

“By making changes to the way we prune, we can extend the vines life and improve productivity, both of which have beneficial financial aspects, as loss of yield and the need to replant are both expenses that are best avoided.

“We were extremely lucky to get Mia to visit and present the workshop; the Simonit and Sirch consultants are in extremely high demand, and retained by some of the biggest names in the world of wine.

“To get her to come to the North East was a real coup, and we hope to get her back for a more detailed, intensive program in the coming years.

“A massive thank you to Brown Brothers and Brett McClen for their hosting and access to the vineyard.”


Article by Leah Anderson-Byrne

Photo: Mia Fischer (centre, green jacket) was watched attentively but participants. Photo by Leah Anderson-Byrne.