Fan Training of Grapevines

This training technique - also known as "free," "wild," "irregular" form or "fan espalier" - is the most common and probably also the oldest technique to train vines on walls. It is predominantly used outside wine-growing regions and is inferior to the strict cordon forms, because fans often become messy and unmanageable. Nevertheless, to provide a complete picture of vine training techniques, it is described here.

Origin

This type of vine training is probably the oldest form altogether.

Spatial requirements

Rectangular or square areas, a minimum of approx. 1.5m x 1.5m to 7m x 7m and larger. Depending on the situation, fan espaliers can be developed into an extensive and varied stem framework, in order to frame windows for example. However, the number of arms and branchings has to be limited to ensure that there is a space of 0.5 to 1.0 metres between them on the outer edge of the vine.

Trellises

Trellises with wire, wire rope or timber slats. One can select to have either all vertical or all horizontal axes or 50cm x 50cm grids. The stem framework is tied to the trellis, the green shoots and grapes can grow freely into space or are also tied to the wires or rods or tucked behind them.

Training and Pruning

See below for Diagrams. For good results, the trained fan needs to be pruned with a combination of  techniques, ie in the lower area preferably Spur Pruning, changing to Rod Pruning in the middle and to Cane Pruning in the upper canopy. This can make it difficult for beginners. Unfortunately, due to a lack of pruning knowledge the espaliers quickly become messy and unmanageable, if the stem framework and side shoot positions are not clearly separated.

Erziehung von Wein
Fan trained vine on timber or wire espalier
Bogenschnitt am Fächer
Small vine in fan form, cane pruned (arched cane pruning), the fruiting canes have already been tied in a roughly horizontal form.
Aufbau einer Fächerrebe
Training of a fan vine on a wire rope mesh similar to System 5030, stage of development approximately as illustrated in Diagram 09 (see below).
Weintrauben in Meißen / Sachsen
Grapes on a vine in fan form
Sinuous stems can soften the rigid espalier grid
Spalierrebe in Uckrow
Grapevine in free fan form on trellis wires
Fächerformen bei Reben
Free forms after winter pruning
Alter Rebstock
Old, huge "fan vine"
Rebhstock mit Fächer-Erziehung
Grapevine with an extensive fan stem framework
Weinstock erziehen
Young vine in its 4th year after winter pruning, as illustrated in Diagram 11 (see below).
Rebstock am Bauernhaus
Old grapevine in fan form.
Rebstock am Haus - Aufbau in freier Form
Old grapevine, probably "Royal Magdalene"
Bud burst and young shoots in spring
Alte Hausrebe
Even a dense stem framework such as this is possible. In fact, many grape varieties thrive with a lot of old wood, as it stores sugars and promotes the vine's vitality.
Rebstock schneiden
Fan trained vine after winter pruning
Rebstock in Fächerform

Training of a Fan Form

1st / 2nd Year

Erziehung Kordon
Diagram 01: Growth and thinning in the first year
Diagram 02: Winter pruning in 1st / 2nd year
Diagram 03: Rubbing off buds in the spring of the 2nd year. Shoot growth arising from the 5 remaining buds, schematic.

3rd Year

Diagram 04: Grapevine at the end of the 2nd year with small main trunk and 5 well matured canes, here already shortened by summer pruning.
Diagram 05: The upper 2 shoots are cut off and the lower ones are trained into cordons.
Diagram 06: Starting with only 3 stems has the advantage that the framework is loose at the base and will not become too dense.
Diagram 07: The shoots are carefully bent apart and tied in the desired direction onto the trellis. Winter pruning to 8 - 10 eyes.
Diagram 08: On each arm, 3 - 4 buds spaced approx. 20 - 40cm apart are retained for future shoots. 1 - 2 buds are retained at the end of each cordon for extension. Buds on the cordons are loosely spaced ie 20 - 40cm for future vertical shoot positions.
Superfluous buds are rubbed off.
Diagram 09: Bud burst. The shoots used for arm extensions are bent and tied into the desired position in summer, so bending is no longer required in winter. Basically all canes can retain their grapes.

4th Year

Diagram 10: Winter pruning. The outer canes for the arm extension are trimmed back to approx. 8 - 10 eyes and tied onto the trellis. However, the future side shoot positions are spur pruned to 2 eyes.
Diagram 11: Most of the buds or young shoots on the arm extensions are again removed. Only 1 - 2 buds are retained per shoot for another arm extension and branching. And again, buds are retained approx. every 20 - 40cm for future side shoot positions.
Diagram 12: Bud burst / young shoots. This is how a fan should be planned ahead: you have to bear in mind the bud arrangements, so that the canes arising from the arms are not growing too close together. Otherwise, the shoots will hamper each other year after year during bud burst. Apart from that, this technique is rather uncomplicated and less rigorous to manage than other training techniques. Later on, the side shoot positions are Spur Pruned, while further up in the canopy and on its outer edge, Rod Pruning and Cane Pruning (Arched Cane Pruning) are carried out.