After a long drought followed by record rainfall the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon vines are as unruly as a 5 – Year old on a sugar binge. They are just blasting out a huge growth cycle. Now that bud break is mostly complete and the growing season has begun in earnest, these pent-up vines have so much energy from ample moisture it is hard to keep them focused on the task at hand: forming and growing grapes. They simply don’t know what to do with themselves.
Similar to the meadows in California that experienced drought, but kept producing seed from the wildflowers, resulting in a super bloom once the water was plentiful. Years and years of dormant seeds have exploded into oceans of color in fields of bountiful wildflower. The grape vines are reacting in a similar explosive manner. They have struggled for many years but now are experiencing a plethora of water and are using this newfound luxury to produce massive amounts of green growth.
That is when suckering comes into play. Vineyard managers always work hard to keep a vine in balance and not let the canopy dominate the growth spurt. You want plenty of leaves and canopy for a healthy plant, but too much can divert precious resources from the formation and nurturing of flavorful fruit. The best way to manage that situation is to remove excess green growth to keep the vines focused and remind them that their goal is to produce high quality fruit.
It is a constant juggling act. With each pass through the vineyard workers are busy plucking unwanted growth from the vines and training the canopy to be the perfect combination of shade, food provider, and airway for breezes. You need lots of leaves for photosynthesis to produce the nutrients and sugars for the plant, but not to provide a harbor for mold, or block the much-needed ventilation to prevent mildew.
The good news it is easier to manage an abundance of growth than to encourage more growth during a more challenging growing season. Every vintage is different and the veteran vineyard managers have seen it all and know how to adjust to the capricious whims of Mother Nature. This year lots of time and money will be spent keeping the runaway green growth in the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in check.
Time to sucker that vine!