The importance of Grape Yield in Vineyard Management
Each individual vine has a finite amount of energy to put into its grapes and foliage. The fewer grapes there are on a vine, the more energy that will go to those grapes. The vast majority of high-quality wines are produced from vineyards that yield less than 5 tons per acre.
Soil fertility has a major impact on the tons per acre a vineyard will yield. Many mountain vineyard sites are grown in soil that has little organic material. Some of these vineyards can yield less than one ton of extremely flavorful grapes per acre. Small quantities combined with difficult and expensive logistical and maintenance issues make wine from these regions expensive.
While more fertile soils that are often present on valley floors can also produce great wines, the vineyard manager may have to do any number of things to make this possible. Excessive vegetative growth and grape clusters are often pruned in an effort to produce the correct yield.
Especially in more fertile soils, vineyard managers will remove leaves and new shoots to ensure proper sun and wind exposure on and through the vine. Grapes that have received sufficient energy from the vine have developed tannins, sugars and acidity.
California Wineries can also space vines closer together in an effort to make them compete for more finite resources. This results in lower quantities of higher quality grapes. That said, grape yield management can be a double-edged sword regarding quality and economics.
Larger yields will produce more wine and can be more economical within a specific price range per bottle. At the same time, many wineries are able to charge more for their wine at least partially based on low production. Producers must find the correct balance between price per bottle, quantity and quality. When wineries fail, it is often because they did not balance these variables correctly.
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