Gisbert Millan is one of our old plots where, more than half a century ago, the family planted Xarel·lo which, for many years, has been part of the III Lustros blend. Working with these old vines is a pleasure and a challenge. They are special vines, sincere, that face maturity with a calm energy that will allow to continue to be productive for many more years to come and, as on much of our land, the vines are goblet trained, an ancestral practice in the Penedès, which we have adopted to preserve and extend in all our estates.
We are able to admire each of the vines from every angle, walking around them, with no wire or structure getting in the way. You can guess that they are old vines because their wood twists in a spiral, like an ancient column. We can only enjoy this sight when the vine is free of branches. In the summer, the vines grow magnificent leaves and this is good for the grapes because they are protected from too much sun, and for the soil, because it benefits from the shade cast by these leaves and retains moisture better.
Between the time of harvesting and the time of pruning, if you look at a vine from a distance, you will notice that the crown is shaped like an inverted cone, i.e., like a goblet or wine glass. This is how this traditional vine formation got its name. It is the most widely used training in the Mediterranean basin, or rather it was the most widely used until the second half of the 20th century. Since the widespread mechanisation of agriculture in the 1970s, the preferred training system has mainly taken the form of a screen created by wires over which the vine climbs to create a wall of leaves and clusters of grapes that allows the tractors to work more easily and the vineyard to be worked faster.
An ancient history
It is said that goblet training is a practice that originated in the Italian península and became widespread thanks to the Roman colonisation. It has always been considered another contribution of Latin culture, which spread the practice of winegrowing in all the territories the Romans occupied.
Goblet training has maximised the vine’s resilience to drought and heat by allowing it to develop a relatively small leaf surface area, which reduces evapotranspiration and, as a result, the vine’s requirements for water. It is ideal for dry areas and is extremely well adapted to poor soils. In addition to making the best use of water, this type of vine training is credited with producing grapes of great concentration and complexity with a higher level of polyphenols, which is well suited to fermentation in wooden barrels. What’s more, the bunches do not touch each other and the air circulates freely, thus helping the fruit to grow in a healthy condition.
Talking to the vines
The vine is a creeping plant, which seeks the light and grows in all directions when left in its natural conditions. In our case, when we plant a vine, we carry out a training pruning to tell it how we want it to grow, but without forcing it to go against its instincts. It takes four or five years for a vine to take on a goblet shape and become productive. Starting from the central trunk, we allow three to five branches to grow in a way that enables the vine to occupy the space homogeneously. This structure allows the sap to circulate more directly from the old wood to the branches and, in periods of intense heat, it reaches the tips of the wood more easily than with other types of more forced training.
Goblet pruning is an art that is not unlike sculpting. Time must be devoted to each vine to reach the point of understanding between what we ask of it and what nature impels it to do. The pruning work has to be carried out by hand, as do the other viticultural operations performed on vines trained in this manner. Compared to other types of training, It is estimated that the Goblet requires a third more time from the winegrower so it is clearly a demanding type of training. At Gramona, we butt up the soil with the assistance of draught horses, we harvest by hand when the grapes attain maturity we carry out respectful pruning using hand shears, we remove unwanted shoots using our fingers… we spend many long hours in the vineyards and we get a feel for the land so that we can understand the vine and work it accordingly. In gratitude, our vines remain healthy and productive for many long years.