Table Grapes with a Little Extra Care and Pruning

Most hobby vintners are delighted to just see the foliage on their vine, but it is when the grapes emerge that they get really excited! If, in addition, the grapes taste sweet, one quickly concludes that a very talented gardener must be at work indeed, even though the grapes' sweetness can almost be taken for granted.. In this section, we will disclose some hints how you can produce particularly large and juicy fruit, so-called "table grapes!"

Additional Watering

In contrast to vineyard grapes for pressing, which should have only small berries with  high sugar content and aroma concentration, table grapes can be watered generously (Image 03). Watering is particularly effective when the grapes are about the size of peas: it promotes cell division in the fruit, and these numerous cells will swell up with a lot of water. However, too much water towards the end of summer can cause single berries to split in some varieties.

Bunch Thinning

By thinning bunches to max. 1 - 2 bunches per cane, the remaining grapes will grow larger and sweeter (Image 04). Those bunches which are furthest away from the woody stem ie at the end of the cane are cut off, and it is essential to finish this thinning process before veraison, ie before the berries start to turn blue or transparent green-yellow.

Fruit Cane Trimming

Shortening the fruit canes back to 5 - 8 leaves beyond the last bunch can, in some varieties, increase berry size, as long as this is done well and truly before veraison (Images 05/06). According to old grape growing tradition, only 1 - 2 leaves should be retained on each cane beyond the last grape (Images 07/08). However, it is best to leave such radical trimming to experienced vintners or gardeners and only if observations made of the vine over several years have confirmed that there is no risk of frost damage. Occasionally, fruit cane trimming can encourage a strong growth of axillary shoots in July / August, which will increase canopy management work. 

Ultimately, the motto "the proof is in the pudding" is valid for every vine, and after a few years it will become evident as to which maintenance work during summer is necessary or useful for producing better fruit.

Table grapes from private gardens
Image 01: Freshly harvested table grapes
Table grape varieties
Image 02: The fungus-tolerant grape variety "Theresa" at full maturity on a house façade in Leipzig (see also Image 11). The 10-cent piece is for size comparison.
Fruit set, grapevine
Image 03: During the stage up to "pea size" the final size of the berries is largely determined - it can now be influenced positively with additional watering.
Pruning vine stocks
Image 06: Detail of centre of Image 05
Colouring of the grapes
Image 04: Before the berries start to colour and ripen, it is useful to trim off entire bunches. This makes the vine more frost-hardy and the remaining grapes will develop larger and sweeter berries. If bunch thinning happens later, precious sugar already stored will be lost.
Summer pruning in vine
Image 07: Rigorous summer pruning to just 1 leaf (1 "node") beyond the last grape. However, this leaf had an axillary shoot before pruning, hence there are actually 3 - 4 leaves present beyond the last grape.
Vine garland after summer pruning
Image 05: Wine Garland, with moderate summer pruning to approx. 5 leaves beyond the last grape.
Image 08: Wine Garland after rigorous summer pruning, here in winter before pruning.