Pruning and training the vines is a very delicate, technical, and long process. From November to March winemakers in Champagne are hard at work.
“Prune early, prune late, but nothing is better than pruning in March”
The process of pruning is complicated. It is often interrupted by periods of snow or heavy frosts, and it can take around 200 hours to prune one single hectare. The use of electrical shears and small wagons can make the task of pruning less tedious however. The way the vine is pruned is incredibly important as it will affect the resulting vigor, quantity, and quality of the future harvest. The sanitary state of the grapes as well as their ability to mature is also dependent on the way the vine is pruned/trained. Pruning can’t be done whichever way we so chose, there is a common sense based protocol that must be followed. The pruner must have a good eye and know how to work with every type of vine as they must adapt how they prune the vine depending on what kind of strain it is. He/she must know the vine well and be aware of every little thing such as the sap flow and how that may affect each particular variety.
Four pruning systems are used in Champagne, and they are chosen depending on both the cru/growth and the grape variety.
Chablis-trained/trellised Cordon-trained/trellised Guyot Double variant trained/trellised Vallée de la Marne-trained/trellised
More than 1,000 applicants apply each year for training and take a class in vine training/pruning. The pass rate is around 60%. Passing this course allows one to get a job throughout champagne as a vine pruner. The pruned vines used to be burned but now they are recycled. The shoots are used as fertilizer and the canes are collected and used in city furnaces.