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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.


Fan espaliers can be further branched and varied (developed into an extensive and varied stem framework) depending on the situation-- 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 at the outer edge of the vine.

For optimal results, the trained fan needs to be pruned with a combination of techniques, i.e., in the lower area preferably spur (short) pruning, changing to rod (medium-long) pruning in the middle, and to cane (long) pruning in the upper canopy. This can make it difficult for beginners. Unfortunately, due to a lack of pruning experience or knowledge, the espaliers quickly become messy and unmanageable if the stem framework and side shoot positions are not clearly separated.

Fan-trained vine on a wooden or wire espalier
Training of grapevine
Small vine in fan form, cane pruned (arched cane pruning); the fruiting canes have already been tied in a roughly horizontal form.
Curved cut (arched cane pruning) on a fan
Training of a fan vine on a wire rope mesh similar to cable system 5030, stage of development approximately the same as shown in Diagram 09 (see below)
Development of a fan vine
Grapes on a vine in fan form
Grapes in Meißen / Saxony
Winding/curving stem-shapes can soften the rigid espalier grid.
Grapevine in free fan form on trellis wires
Vine in Uckrow / Germany
Free forms after winter pruning
Fan-form for vine plants
Old, huge "fan vine"
Old grapevine
Grapevine in widely-branching fan shape
Fan-trained grapevine
Young vine in its 4th year after winter pruning, as illustrated in Diagram 11 (see below)
Training grapevine
Old grapevine in fan form
Vine on a farmhouse
Old grapevine, probably "Royal Magdalene"
Grapevine on a house - free-form development
Bud burst and young shoots in spring
Even a dense stem/trunk 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
Old house-grapevine
Fan trained vine after winter pruning
Pruning of grapevines
Vine stock in fan form

Training in fan form

1st/2nd Year

Diagram 01: Growth and thinning in the first year
Diagram 02: Winter pruning in 1st / 2nd year
Diagram 03: Bud-break in the spring of the 2nd year. Shoot growth arising from the 5 remaining buds

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 prune to 8 - 10 spurs.
Diagram 08: On each arm, 3 - 4 buds spaced approx. 20 - 40 cm apart are kept for future shoots. 1 - 2 buds are kept at the end of each cordon for extension. Buds on the cordons are loosely spaced, i.e., 20 - 40 cm for future vertical shoot positions. Superfluous (unused) buds are broken 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 keep their grapes.

4th Year

Diagram 10: Winter pruning. The outer canes for the arm extension are trimmed back to approx. 8 - 10 buds/nodes/eyes and tied onto the trellis. However, the future side shoot positions are spur-pruned to 2 nodes.
Diagram 11: Most of the buds or young shoots on the arm extensions are again removed. Only 1 - 2 buds are kept per shoot for another arm extension and branching. And again, buds are kept approx. every 20 - 40 cm 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 hinder 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 used.