Jules Guyot: The Man Behind the Guyot Vine Training System

Before the invention of the Guyot vine training system, vineyards in Europe were often negatively impacted by harsh weather or poor management. This led to unhealthy grapes, smaller yields, and lower-quality wines. While many other scientists were focused on classifying wine grapes based on their location in Bourgogne, Dr. Jules Guyot was simultaneously pushing for better practices in the vineyard that would solve the previously mentioned issues.

His studies led to the creation of the Guyot vine training methods, which have become common vine training systems throughout Europe. His work in the field impacted the wine industry for many years. These methods allowed vintners to develop better wines and use methods that kept the soil healthy instead of stripping nutrients from it. Below, we explore Dr. Guyot’s life, his studies, and how his literature greatly changed the wine industry in Europe.

Vineyard vistas and wine wonders in Alsace, France

Vineyard vistas and wine wonders in Alsace, France | Image Source

Early + Late Life of Dr. Guyot

Guyot was born in Gyé-sur-Seine, France in 1807. Initially, Guyot studied medicine (hence his title). After becoming a doctor, Guyot dived into politics, becoming involved in the July Revolution of 1830. This involvement led to his incarceration in the Saint-Pelagie prison. [1]

His short stint in jail caused him to change his career course, instead leaning toward enology (study of wines) and winemaking. During this time, he also pivoted toward scientific work in various areas, including mechanics, telegraphy, and physics. He created a new type of locomotive which came about due to his research on these topics.

The Dr.’s interest in viticulture led him to visit France’s winemaking regions to study the methods of grape growing and winemaking methods. These studies helped him create a name for himself, as they were published in one of his major books, Etudes des vignobles de France. These studies also were discussed in other books created by Guyot (discussed further below).

Because of the vine training system Guyot created, he is credited with improving the cultivation of wine grapes. Many people also credit him for curating a process for preparing grape vines for higher-quality wines, known as cane pruning. [2]

Guyot’s Vine Studies

During his viticulture explorations, he traveled around Europe and studied which grounds were fertile and could grow crops without prompting. Each area’s crops and yield were noted in his diary, which helped him draw conclusions that led to the creation of the Guyot system. After studying vineyards for 30 years, Guyot went so far as to cultivate his own, which spanned 84 acres and a farm about double the size.

Guyot specifically purchased land deemed unsuitable for growing wine vines, then used the help of experts in different fields to cultivate wine grapes. Guyot’s vineyard grapes produced 25,200 gallons of wine by the seventh year, a significant amount considering the land was thought to be barren. This yield was only grown in a section of the vineyard, surpassing Guyot’s expectations.

Once he realized cultivating soil in a certain manner could lead even the most barren terroir to produce enough yield to sustain many people, he set out to create one of his most popular books – Culture of the Vine and Winemaking.

He also focused his studies on creating wine via traditional European methods in the 1800s, detailed in his book noted above. Guyot noted that certain steps and methods should be implemented to create the best French wine, such as only using clean casks (or ones that have previously carried the same type of wine) for wine production. [3]

The Guyot Vine System

The Guyot System consists of renewal training methods. Meaning the branches which are fruiting are renewed through winter pruning. Early winter pruning is more aggressive than spring or summer pruning due to dormant vines allowing easier cutting without sap bleeding. Then, the new vines are trained horizontally, thus replacing the pruned vines. These new vines lead to wine grapes in the summertime.

When using the Guyot vine training system, each vine has a specific appearance due to the method put in place. The primary stem (also known as the leg) is typically short, with one or two arms sprouting out of the leg. If there is one arm, it is called a single Guyot fruiting branch. If an arm is on each side, the plant is called a double Guyot. You may also hear these arms called one cane (single Guyot) or two canes (double Guyot) systems.

The vines are trained to grow upward by weaving them through the metal wires. This creates a tree-like appearance on Guyot-trained vines.

When training vines under this method, vine spacing is also essential. A single Guyot should be spaced approximately 27- 39 inches apart from each main vine. A double Guyot requires additional space and should be placed 5-6 feet apart. Row spacing is also crucial when using the Guyot training system.

By following this method, the leafy growth is better controlled. This leads to more good-quality grapes grown in a smaller space. Thus, the yield is more abundant. [4]

Spur Pruning Vs. Cane Pruning

Spur Pruning in Pomerol's Vineyards.

Spur Pruning in Pomerol’s Vineyards. | Image Source

Generally, two methods can be applied to grape vines to prompt growth – spur pruning and cane pruning. Spur-pruned vines include arms that are cut at two or four buds. In comparison, cane pruning requires selecting one primary cane and one renewal cane, also called single cane pruning. Vintners following this method should cut the remainder of the fruiting canes.

It’s important to note not all wine grapes can be spur or cane-pruned. Each variety calls for a different type of pruning for the best outcome. Under the Guyot method, grapes must be cane pruned. This method works best for vineyards in cooler climates, hence why it’s popular in Europe. [5]

Other Major Accomplishments

As mentioned, Guyot wrote Culture of the Vine and Winemaking, initially released in 1865. Since its release, this book has been updated, translated into other languages (including English), and re-released multiple times. It is considered one of the best guides for vintners and winemakers who want to follow the Guyot method.

Jules Guyot also created other written works, including Étude des vignobles de France, pour servir à l’enseignement mutuel de la viticulture et de la vinification françaises, which translates to, “Study of the vineyards of France, to serve the mutual teaching of French viticulture and winemaking.” This second book specifically discusses Guyot’s research from 1861-1867, when he visited vineyards in 71 out of 96 departments in France.

In his later years, Dr. Jules Guyot also wrote a paper strongly recommending that vintners change their wine-growing practices to include his proposed new methods. This paper also dictated a system for better organizing a vineyard, with detailed notes on pruning in various seasons and other vineyard preparation work.

One example of his proposed methods included planting the vines in organized rows so that a horse-pulled plow could fit between the rows. Using a horse-drawn plow instead of a machine meant the soil could maintain its integrity better since using a horse is less invasive and rough on the terrior. [6]

The Guyot Training System Today

A teaching establishment was opened bearing his name to commemorate Dr. Guyot’s wine industry achievements. The Institut Jules Guyot – Institut Universitaire de la Vigne et du Vin teaches students about various wine-related topics. For example, students can learn about wine growing and winemaking in a professional setting. This institution opened in 1995 in Dijon, France. [7]

Dr. Guyot also has a pear named after him, though he did not cultivate it. It was named after Guyot because of his involvement in fruit growing. This pear continues to be grown primarily in the southern part of France. [8]

Many people interested in the wine industry and those in the wine industry as professionals still refer to Guyot’s books for methods to incorporate when producing wine. As such, the Guyot training method continues to be a top choice for vintners growing grape varieties that are ideal for cane pruning.

Over the years, this method has also been adopted by select locations outside of Europe, including Australia and multiple states within the US (such as California). Without Guyot’s indepth studies, the value of healthy terrior and older winemaking methods might not be at the forefront of wine production in Europe, the US, and Australia.

Did you know? During the Neolithic era, trees were used as a method to stabilize wine vines. Those growing wine grapes would train them to grow up trees at this time. This method was an excellent way to expose grape vines to the elements, thus leading to healthier wine grapes. [9]

This Day in Wine History

May 17, 1807 – Dr. Jules Guyot was born on this date. He lived until he was 64, passing away on March 31, 1872.

The 1860s – The Guyot training method was created during this time and named after Dr. Jules Guyot. This training method forever changed wine viticulture.

1865 – The English version of Dr. Guyot’s book Culture of the Vine and Winemaking (translated by Ludovic Marie) was released this year.

1995 – The Institut Jules Guyot opened this year to commemorate Guyot’s work in the wine industry.

Want to Read More? Try These Books!

Culture Of The Vine And Wine Making (1865) Prohibition Gangsters- The Rise and Fall of a Bad Generation

Sources:

[1] “Jules Guyot: French Physician and Agronomist (N/a – 1872) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life.” Peoplepill.com, peoplepill.com/people/jules-guyot.

[2] WineSpectator.com, 2022, www.winespectator.com/glossary/show/id/guyot_pruning.

[3] Guyot, Jules. Culture of the Vine and Wine Making … Translated from the French by L. Marie. 1865.

[4] “Grapes: Guyot Training and Pruning / RHS Gardening.” Www.rhs.org.uk, www.rhs.org.uk/fruit/grapes/guyot-pruning-system.

[5] “Dormant Spur and Cane Pruning Bunch Grapevines.” Extension.uga.edu, extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1505.

[6] “The 19th Century, the Golden Age of Bourgogne Wines.” Vins de Bourgogne, www.bourgogne-wines.com/winegrowers-and-expertise/bourgogne-vines/work-in-the-vines/changing-tasks-through-the-seasons,2526,9396.html.

[7] “The 20th Century: Towards Universal Recognition.” Vins de Bourgogne, www.bourgogne-wines.com/winegrowers-and-expertise/a-story-of-time/towards-an-international-profile/the-20th-century-towards-universal-recognition,2520,9393.html.

[8] “Jules Guyot: French Physician and Agronomist (N/a – 1872) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life.” Peoplepill.com, peoplepill.com/people/jules-guyot.

[9] Burrows, Graham D. “Wine: A Scientific Exploration, Merton Sandler and Roger Pinder, Taylor and Francis, London, ISBN: 0-415-24734-9.” Stress and Health, vol. 20, no. 4, 20 Sept. 2004, pp. 239–239, https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.1017.

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , By Published On: June 16, 2023Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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