Early January 2014, The land around Penela is waterlogged and the vines are dormant.
I was having a conversation with a friend about the quality of last year’s wines which should be ready for drinking in March 2014. The subject moved from drinking to pruning and preparing the vineyards for a new season.
I was saying that I thought I would start pruning as soon as I could stand on the earth without sinking in as we are due to have some warm weather that should be in the next two weeks.
My friend said its best not to prune before the 15th of January. I don’t usually question the local wisdom especially from someone who makes superb wine so I never thought anything more about it until I got home and it came to me “I bet that’s a Saint’s Day” (I have a personal theory that everything happens here whether it is planting potatoes or picking walnuts around the relevant Saint’s Day) so I looked it up. It was indeed a Saint’s Day – not the saint of wine or pruning but St. Paul the Hermit.
He is also known as Paul the First Hermit and Paul of Thebes, an Egyptian hermit and born in Egypt.
I must admit we have been a little hermit-like ourselves during the early part of the year with rain and wind every day making us reluctant to leave the warmth of the log fire. It’s hard to think that a beautiful spring and summer is only a few weeks away.
Pruning the vines is very important as it is one of the main things which dictates the quality of your wine in the coming vintage. You have to treat them with tough love and prune them very hard like roses for best results. It took me three years to understand just how hard you have to prune them.
The weeks after St Paul the hermits day will be busy and backbreaking with pruning 1,000 vines, applying fertilizer and ploughing between the rows.
We keep most of the thicker vine cuttings to burn in our wood fired pizza oven. They get it very hot very quickly, leave little ash and make the pizzas taste divine. A little tasty reward for all that hard work.