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Wine to 5: Marco Simonit, vine pruning consultant

Inside a professional's everyday life, Decanter speaks to Marco Simonit, co-founder & CEO of vine pruning consultancy Simonit&Sirch.

Marco Simonit is the co-founder & CEO of Simonit&Sirch, the only internationally accredited vine-pruning consultancy and training group. In 1998, he joined forces with his childhood friend Pierpaolo Sirch to begin vineyard consultancy work and develop his pioneering pruning method. The Simonit&Sirch Academy is the world’s first digital platform entirely dedicated to vine-pruning training.

How did you get into pruning?

I grew up in Collio in Italy and wanted to be a vet. Unfortunately, family circumstances meant I couldn’t study for that, so instead I worked as an agronomist. I always liked to sketch vines, and that got me thinking about what I couldn’t see from the outside. I took a vine that had been pulled out to a local carpenter and he cut it open and it was pretty much dead inside from disease – that was the start of my journey into the world of pruning. I wanted to understand why some vines thrived and others didn’t.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The satisfaction I get from knowing that my pruning technique helps to create healthy, more resilient, long-living vines that produce some of the best wines in the world. It’s also hugely rewarding training the vineyard teams on-site. Often, no one has trained these workers before. Now, when I work in vineyards in South Africa or Napa Valley, or wherever I am in the world, I see that these workers have a sense of pride and are learning new skills, which benefits not only the winery but also the lives of the workers themselves.

And the worst?

Having a global business means I spend a lot of time away from home.

What’s the most common misconception about what you do?

Pruning used to be regarded as a basic manual-labouring job. Now, that perception is changing. It is (rightly) regarded as a skilled profession. Increasingly, consumers are focused on origin and sustainability, and my pruning technique ensures that vines won’t be afflicted by disease and need to be ripped out and replaced in a couple of years.

What skills do you need to be a successful pruner?

A good pruner needs to think ‘vineside’, as I describe it – what needs to be done in the vineyard and how will the vines react to our interventions, not just next season but in the longer term? Pruning is an art and a science. It’s also important to work with the client to meet their goals for their vineyards.

What are the key benefits of your vine-pruning methodology?

Pruning is a key operation in vineyard management. My pruning technique is based on four basic principles that together ensure that the vine, no matter where the vineyard is or what the grape variety is, is healthier, more productive and lives longer.

Are there any other wine regions in which you’d like to work?

My team and I already work in 15 countries and on most continents, but I am fascinated by the idea of working in new places, such as China, and expanding further in existing markets such as the US. Generally, rainy, humid, cold areas planted with vines with sensitive genetics have more risks.

What are your hopes for the future of vine pruning?

Simonit&Sirch set up online pruning courses in January 2021 during the Covid pandemic and we already have 11,000 registered users, as well as collaborations with 10 wine research institutes and universities around the world. I believe that sharing knowledge benefits everyone and I would like to continue to raise the status and importance of vineyard work. I truly believe the maxim ‘Great wine starts with great pruning.’ Genetics, and in particular epigenetics, is a really interesting frontier.

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