Wine Culture Magazine

What keeps grapes up? These systems of wood and wire 

In British Columbia, vineyards are planted overlooking rolling benchlands, lakes, forests and the ocean. But what structures hold the proud vines off the ground and enable quality fruit to grow?

Trellising systems, of course.

Grapes naturally grow toward the sun, pushing their way to the highest point where they can capture the most available sunlight. However, the labour of harvesting grapes would be beyond challenging if they were left to grow out of control.

Trellising systems allow vines to maximize sunlight, minimize shading and balance shoot growth and fruit production. Trellises are permanent structures of posts and wires that help support and position the vine’s shoots. The vine’s tendrils will curl naturally around the trellis wires and keep the canopy in place. The wine grower ties branches and shoots to the trellis as required. 

Vineyard owners decide on the best trellising system to suit their site. Considerations on what method to select include vine vigour, the slope or topography of the site and the potential need for mechanization. Here are three popular trellising systems, with wines made using each.

A vertical shoot positioning system. Supplied photo

Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP): 

This is the simplest and most commonly used form of trellising. Shoots of the grapevine are attached vertically and held in place, forming a single canopy. This method keeps the shoots between the wires of the trellis system and provides good sun exposure. It is best suited for low- to medium-growth vines, and most vineyard mechanization equipment is built for VSP trellises. 

Two to try: 

Blue Grouse Estate Winery Siegerrebe 2021
Cowichan Valley, B.C., $26)
Aromatic, medium-bodied, mandarin orange.

Little Engine Wines French Family Release Chardonnay 2021
(Naramata Bench, B.C., $36)
Crisp, bright, tropical; mango, banana, pineapple.


A Geneva Double Curtain trellis system at Stag’s Hollow Winery. Photo courtesy of Stag’s Hollow Winery

Geneva Double Curtain (GDC): 

Vigorous vines can produce an extraordinary number of shoots and a high fruit yield. Complex training systems like this one are designed to split the canopy to maximize light and reduce shade. A GDC system keeps the fruiting wire about five feet off the ground and is split horizontally. It creates an open leaf canopy, allowing good ventilation and natural sunshine access to the fruit while providing enough shade from leaves to avoid sunburn.

One to try: 

Stag’s Hollow Winery Tragically Vidal 2021
Okanagan Falls, B.C., $20)
Peach, pear, citrus, delightful.

Double Scott Henry: 

This another complex trellising system used for high-producing vines. It is vertically divided, with one canopy growing upwards and one down. An extra wire is used in this system to help downwards shoot positioning.  

One to try: 

Sandhill Pinot Gris 2021
Okanagan Valley, B.C., $21)
Medium-bodied, juicy, pear, apple, apricot.

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