Enough is too much


In the August 2006 edition of The Wine Spectator, we see once again the old armchair viticulturist refrain regarding crop yield that less is always more. James Laube’s assessment of the 2005 vintage is that it should be a good vintage, but he finds that its size casts that into doubt. Putting aside that the record crop is mostly based on record bearing acreage rather than high yields per acre, I contend that in many cases, (Napa Cabernet being the most glaring), quality suffers mainly from under cropping.

Vines distribute their energy between crop maturity and vegetal growth depending on the number of fruitful buds which the pruner leaves and which survive spring rain and frost as fertilized clusters. Less fruit means more leaves, more shade.  Shaded clusters tend to have poor color and vegetal flavors. Undercropping also increases berry size and flavor dilution.

We’d have less need of RO’s to concentrate flavor if we understood vine balance better. We’d also pay less for these improved wines if that pricey Napa acreage were put to more efficient use. Meantime maybe the 2005’s can be given credit for what they are without worry that they’re not actually as good as they taste.






Jonathan Hesford:

Why do so many wine writers jump on this low yield bandwagon? While it is true that some great vineyards are low yielding, that doesn't mean that by restricting yield (mainly by pruning) you therefore get better wine.

You are so right in saying that overpruning generally decreases quality.

The first thing I did when taking over my vineyard was to leave longer spurs on the vines at pruning - the result was lower vigour better fruit and a more manageable canopy.

It's interesting that the press still go on about this and yet we have people like Richard Smart proving it wrong.