Pruning. Or just a fine excuse to talk shop with the great Amândio!
What is pruning anyway? Amândio, please explain: “Pruning is nothing but early crop thinning”. Well, this sounds rather familiar. I must have read it somewhere. Indeed I have: it’s a quote from the Tecnologia Vitícola book that Amândio wrote with the legendary Rogério de Castro. The textbook for my General Viticulture class at university. So here I am at AdegaMãe with the great Amândio, the viticulture consultant for this winery and one of the most important lecturers I had the pleasure to learn from at the ISA — Instituto Superior de Agronomia. It should be clear by now that pruning was nothing but an excuse to catch up with him. And to put an end to this nonsense that some call the rising war between viticulture and enology.
After all, where is the wine really made? Is it outdoors in the vineyards or inside in the winery? Oh, there really is nothing to dispute here. The better the viticulture, the better the wine! We’re partners and our labor is complementary. One can produce a great wine with great grapes, but no one can produce something really great if the grapes aren’t that special. And that sums it up, I think. Especially if we have in mind that the main goal for the winemaker should be to retain the authenticity of the grapes that get to the winery. Yes, sometimes winemaking is really as simple as not ruining the grapes that got there in the first place.
Perhaps this war is nothing but ego-tripping, because for some reason when it comes to awards and accolades, everybody seems to remember winemakers and forget viticulturists. That is why I decided to reach out to Amândio. He is the most knowledgeable viticulturist in Portugal that I know of. He combines his theoretical and technical knowledge with a vast experience conducting several projects in this country. To great effect.
I got to know Amândio when I was a student. Together with professor Rogério de Castro he was one of the strongest influences on my career. In fact, it was the two of them who first introduced me to Anselmo Mendes, which set in motion a whole series of events in my professional life. We even got the chance to work together, the four of us, and today Amândio is part of nearly all the projects I’m involved in. His consultancy in viticulture allows every project to yield better results, thus complementing the winemaking process.
Amândio is not only knowledgeable, he is also resilient. Just like grape vines battling through Winter. When I was a student, I remember him taking us around the country to meet producers in journeys that would leave all of us rather drained either from the learning or plain tiredness. Amândio would always be the last man standing. We learned a lot from him. Pruning, for instance, or things like the crop thinning that is now taking place at AdegaMãe which allows us to thin old wood from previous years and begin to control the production for the coming year.
In some ways, this is where grape quality begins. It is up to Amândio to stage the best strategy for our grape varieties, balancing output and quality. Enter pruning shears. In the experienced hands of Pedro, Marco, “Bana”, Armindo and Dorel, they deliver precise strikes in each grape vine. These are the surgeons of the vineyard and you can always count on them. At AdegaMãe we combine two techniques: short pruning (leaving just a small spur with one or two buds) and long pruning (leaving a spur with four or more buds).
Now all we have to do is wait. Results will begin to show in no time, just as shoots start to grow from the buds. Yes, the grape vine is indeed sturdy. Just like Amândio.