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22 May 2012

Grafting Sangiovese at Avignonesi

Grafting Sangiovese at Avignonesi

The work of a viticulturist is paced by the rhythm of Nature - each year you wait for the vines to wake up, bud, flower, set fruit and, finally, you harvest. If you decide to increase your vineyards by planting new ones, you need to have soil that is well rested, you need to plant new vines...and wait for them to grow. If all goes well, you will see your first real harvest after 4 - 5 years. Patience is a word that farmers know well. 


There are, however, shortcuts that allow us to fast-forward on this meticulous practice.


Last Spring, Avignonesi purchased 26 hectares (65 acres) of vineyards in the Montepulciano area. Some parcels were planted with a mixed range of vines in the same rows, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, a decision that truly makes a person stop and scratch their head. How could the winemaking team respond to the different ripening times of each grape without revisiting and trampling through the same vineyard multiple times? Then, strategically speaking, Virginie Saverys’s aim with the acquisitions had been to increase the Sangiovese production of the winery for the Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The combination of these two matters helped us decide that our best option would be to graft Sangiovese clones onto the existing rootstock. 


How was this accomplished? Grafting is a process that takes a full year, and more. During the summer months, when Sangiovese vines were vigorously growing in our vineyards, our agronomist and her assistant regularly visited them to observe the plants, take notes on them and mark the vines that had the healthiest and most interesting fruit. Then, after the first full frosts this past winter, at the apex of our pruning season in February, our agronomist took special cuttings from the predetermined selection of Sangiovese. The cuttings were wrapped in Teflon and stored in refrigerated cells until just last week, when the grafting took place.


To perform this delicate task, we arranged for a visit from the experts of grafting: Worldwide Vineyards, a French company made up of Argentinian grafters. It is quite spectacular to se them work their magic. They operated skillfully and quickly, bringing our selected Sangiovese vines to old rootstock, an undertaking that – compared to pulling up old vines and replanting - saves both money and time, and lets us use our own best prime material from the existing Sangiovese vineyards for the selection.  Enjoy a short film of the vineyard grafters at work on YouTube. By next summer, these very vines will happily be producing their own Sangiovese.


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