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Leafing the Vineyard

Vina Robles
October 5, 2016 | Vina Robles

Leafing the Vineyard

When it comes to vineyard work, there are two key activities that every wine drinker seems to know about—pruning in the winter, and grape picking in the fall.

However, there are a lot of smaller viticultural tasks that take place without any fanfare, but that are equally crucial for growing premium grapes. One such task is called “leafing,” whereby we go through the vineyard and selectively remove leaves from each and every vine. If that sounds like a lot of work, you are right—it is!

The point of leafing is to make sure that the grape clusters are not overly shaded throughout the growing season. By removing vine leaves and allowing diffused sunlight to reach what we call the “fruiting zone,” we ensure that the grapes achieve full maturity, with ample color and structure.

When we pull leaves, we do so only on the side of the vine that faces the morning sun. The grapes that face the more intense afternoon sun do just fine without the aid of leafing, but on the morning-facing side, you need to make sure that the fruit gets enough light exposure and warmth each day.

We start leafing right after the blooming period in the late spring. The idea is to open up the canopy and provide sufficient sun exposure early in the fruit’s growth cycle. However, if you expose the fruit to too much sunlight and too suddenly, it will be prone to sunburn.

There is an art to leafing correctly. In our estate vineyards, we send a crew of 15 to 20 workers in to do the job, and they all know what they are doing. When they are done, everything looks manicured, and there is just the right balance of light and shade in the fruiting zone.

After our initial leafing push, we can move on to other tasks, but as the growing season unfolds, we continue with periodic spot checks and leaf removal to make sure we maintain that perfect balance.

The reward for all that work comes during the harvest season, when we deliver intensely colored, richly flavored fruit to the winery—qualities that our leafing efforts make possible.

Click here to read more from our 2016 Fall Newsletter.


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