A crisp start in the Churinga Vineyard, Watervale, did not deter a record number of competitors at the SA Pruning Championships earlier this month.
More than 50 pruners came from the Adelaide Hills, McClaren Vale, Barossa and Clare Valley for event, a healthy amount of them women, and braved the truly winter conditions.
The first ever pruning match in the Clare Valley was in 1893, with women only allowed to join the contest over 40 years later.
Dean Willoughby, Treasury Wine Estates, Barossa, was the day’s biggest winner, securing the Wolf Blass shield for best individual pruner, having also claimed the top prize in the rod and spur event, and placed second in the mens individual spur.
Mr Willoughby has been interested in pruning all his life, and made the move from apples trees to vines 20 years ago.
“Whatever tree it is, I love creating a shape, and vines are another plant that you can use to be more creative,” Mr Willoughby said.
He said the secret to his success is being able to envisage the vine when it is pruned.
“You’ve got to have a good eye for a vine balance and the least amount of cuts you can do on a vine, the quicker you’ll prune,” he said.
“I love doing the rod and spur pruning, because you actually have to think about the cuts you make, so it becomes quite an intelligent job in the field.”
Mr Willoughby started competing in 2014, the contest being a way to test his skills, speed and knowledge, all of which have stacked up pretty well with previous success.
He said the main difference between pruning in different regions is the varieties, with Shiraz in the Barossa and Riesling in Clare, alternating venues a great challenge for rival competitors.
The individual spur event was won by Paul Steel, Kilikanoon Wines, Clare and the women’s spur event was claimed by the Barossa’s Amanda Mader.
The team pruning event proved popular and a bit of fun, with competitors such as Team Tutu, the Sizzling Secateurs, Cutting Edge, Light Pass Cricket Club, Team Purple, and favourites, the Old Farts.
Team Go Go Go, made up of James Brooksby and Guilio Dichiera, Clare, and Shane Bartel, McClaren Vale, took out the team event with nine vines pruned cleanly in three minutes and two seconds.
While speed is a factor, judges also look for quality of work, spur selection and rod selection.
Clare Region Winegrape Growers Association executive officer Anna Baum said while pruning is an art, a lot of technical criteria must be met in crafting a well-balanced vine.
Ms Baum was impressed with the turnout, with record numbers and extra entrants on the day, and thankful for the strong support from industry.
Association vice chair, Alister Sandow thanked everyone for their organisation and participation, especially the sponsors; WSB, Pellenc, Cobra Eclipse, Platinum Ag, Bahco, Electrocute and Ricep for providing the major prizes on the day.