Rick Kinzbrunner from Gianconda, Lee Duffy from E E Muir, Ben Rose from Toolangi all told me I should. Richard Smart’s been banging on about it for years. But cutting off all the thick and gnarly arms on our vines seemed brutal and an awful lot of effort.
There are several major fungal diseases that attack the trunks of mature vines. Eutypa, Botryosphaeria, Phomopsis and something called Black Goo. They sneak up on otherwise healthy-looking vines in the prime of life. I went to a friend’s vineyard and realized to my horror every single one of their less-than-twenty-year-old Cabernet vines was dying of cancer. So sharpened the loppers and cane-pruned our lot.
As an infection-control measure we’ve been collecting and burning our prunings since the vineyard was planted. Of our 4,800 vines as I chopped off the cordons there were only two I thought looked a bit iffy. But prevention is better than cure. And the great thing is cane pruning should (note the subjunctive) make for a more uniform, less disease-prone canopy. And for Pinot it’s fashionable as. We shall see.