With the arrival of spring, the vines awaken from their winter torpor and the vegetative cycle begins anew. Each region of Italy, in fact every region of the world, has unique soil and climate features to which plants must adapt.
The training system, meaning the type of cultivation and pruning, helps the plant to adapt to climatic conditions and influences development of both the vegetative and fruit-bearing parts. This affects both quality and quantity at harvest time.
The following factors are important in choosing a training system: the plant variety; the climatic conditions–such as ventilation, type of climate and precipitation; the vineyard soil type, including composition, slope and exposure to the sun, and finally, the type of grape, the yield desired and the potential for mechanisation of the vineyard.
There are many training systems, but here are some of the most commonly used and in my opinion, some of the most useful to viticulture.
The ALBERELLO training system is used principally in the south of Italy. It is used with vines that don’t need any kind of support and in more extreme environmental conditions, such as very windy, very dry or in winter, very cold areas. This system is effective in protecting the vine from inclement weather and produces excellent-quality grapes. Yield depends on the number of trunks per hectare; this system is also difficult to mechanise.
The PERGOLA is typical of northern Italy, especially in Trentino. This training system requires a structure with vertical posts to support the vine, allowing it to grow upwards and branch its vegetation out over an inclined canopy, shading the grape clusters from the strong summer rays of the sun. Though mechanisation is difficult, this training system creates good ventilation for the grape clusters, protecting them from undesirable fungi and other diseases.
This training system is used for both table grapes and mechanised harvesting. It provides excellent results in hot climates and conditions of drought. For this reason it is mostly employed in the south of Italy, in Puglia and Sicily in particular, where high temperatures prevent any tendency to rot that can arise when the clusters are shaded. Cords are strung on vertical posts planted about two metres apart, creating a tent-like structure.
SPALLIERA – GUYOT
This training system was invented by its eponymous creator, a French winegrower, halfway through the nineteenth century.
It requires a horizontal structure to support the vines with taut wires strung between posts anchored in the ground.
The Guyot system pruning has three cuts, one each for the past, present and future: the past is pruned when superfluous shoots from the previous year are cut off; the present pruning trims this year’s shoot to the correct length and the pruning for the future forms a spur with two buds on the lowest shoot. Guyot is the training system most often used in the Langhe because it gives ideal exposure to the sun, good ventilation, correct density and excellent quality.