Definition - What does Cordon Renewal mean?
Cordon renewal is a vineyard technique that allows estates to continue using the same vines past the expected life. The cordon are the "arms" of the vine; it’s the part of the plant where the leaves and grapes grow. After 25 years, vines produce less fruit and are usually ripped up to be replaced by new vines. The roots of the vines are usually still healthy, which means that they can continue providing quality fruit. Cordon renewal is one attempt to ensure that the vines continue to produce the same quality fruit in the same quantity.
WineFrog explains Cordon Renewal
Cordon renewal is not a traditional vineyard management technique. It has only been a popular way to prolong the virility of a vine since the early 21st century. Traditional vineyard management dictates that the cordons be trained along the trellis and trimmed to remove any additional or unwanted shoots. New cordons are always growing at the base of the vine, but these are usually trimmed away to allow the successful cordons to thrive without competition.
As the vine ages, the cordons end up with barren spaces - chunks of vine where there are no fruit-bearing shoots. This creates a limit to the amount of fruit the vine can grow. In the case where the vine has consistently produced quality wines that have become popular with consumers, losing the fruit production can be a devastating blow financially for most estates… and personally for the consumers.
When the vine’s roots are determined to be healthy, the winemaker or vineyard manager can decide to use cordon replacement. This process entails that a cordon shoot near the base of the vine be allowed to grow up along the trellis, instead of being pruned away to allow the existing cordons to thrive. This new cordon is then trained and given room, with the old, unproductive cordon severed from the roots. This process creates vines that produce in abundance for longer, ensuring that the quality wines the winemaker has developed will continue to be on the shelves.