David’s reaction when his first “palo” arrived was quite similar to the boy in this commercial, finding immense value in an object where most would find none. To me, it is humorous to witness such reactions from a man who generally holds a serious demeanour. Yet with his stick (palo), another trailblazer story has come to pass.
A few years back David experimented with posts in one of our vineyards. This system is very rarely seen in Rioja but being a fan of the Rhone where this system is quite common, David was familiar with the concept. The idea came to life shortly after we started using horses to plow our vineyards. The vines in our La Revilla vineyard were planted with a rather large distance between the vines running along the row. In addition to working the land between the rows, we often have to work by hand between the vines to loosen the soil. David wanted to take advantage of this surface area to allow the horses to work in both directions if needed. In order to do so, both pathways needed to be clear, which is where the posts came into play.
Post enable the growth of the vine to be contained in an upward manner, rather than spreading horizontally. As the shoots of the vines grow, a small cord is used to control the growth and tie it to the post. This work needs to be done two to three times per year. A major benefit to this is you avoid the need to green prune. Often when you cut the growth of the shoots, the plant spends it energy recovering and rebuilding the lost vigor and if not done correctly the vine can regrow even longer.
Another advantage to this system is protection from the wind. Our vines are located near the slopes of the Sierra Cantabria which often carry strong north winds which can be damaging to the vine. Specifically in the spring when the stems are still young and don’t yet have the strength to withstand the damaging winds. A majority of our vines are old bush vines that have no trailer system to provide protection from the wind. While this process can be laborious, tying up the growth in a timely manner prevents this damage from occurring.
It has also proven to be an effective method of controlling oidium (powdery mildew fungus) in the vineyard, as it allowed more airflow to pass between the vines. Prior to the use of this method, by late summer the vigour would expand the space of the vine in that there would be crossover amongst the canopy. The only “prune” required for this system is a cleaning of the leaves that cover the grapes ensuring exposure to the sun and proper maturity.
It’s a costly system to implement therefore we have to balance which vineyards are best suited to receive it. We started with one vineyard, La Revilla, three years ago and now have successfully utilised this system in three of our vineyards. A lovely reminder of the beauty that can be found in simple pleasures, such as UN PALO!