Italy employs a large number of vine training systems. Every region (and often the districts within them) has different viticultural traditions and practices that have been shaped by the local environment.

Modern vine training and pruning systems are common across Italy today. However, there are still certain areas that train vines using traditional systems. These traditional systems are largely used by growers in combination with modern vineyard management techniques to produce quality grapes.

High-Trained Vine Systems

The Etruscans introduced the first type of high training system. Vines were trained to grow high in trees using the branches as support. This resulted in long canes and cordons for the vine, producing a dense canopy and an abundance of grapes. This system, known alberata or vite maritata all’albero (meaning: vine married to the tree), remained widely practised until the middle of the 20th century.

The alberata system can be considered as an early example of overhead vine training and it is the ancestor of the more modern and traditional pergola and tendone systems still used today. Due to their structure, these systems are generally used with low-density plantings.

The pergola allows the vine canopy to grow high above the ground and to spread out upon either a horizontal arm or an inclined arm. The pergola, in all its variants, is used widely in Trentino, Alto Adige, Veneto, and Romagna.

Pergola Trentina vine training system
Pergola Trentina vine training system

The tendone is another overhead training system where the canopy grows horizontally high off the ground forming a sort of tent with grape clusters hanging underneath the canopy. This system was typical of the southern regions of Abruzzo, Campania, Puglia, and Sicilia. However, due to its high productivity, it has mostly been readapted or replaced by modern training systems more suitable for quality wine grapes. Tendone is still used in Italy but mainly for table grapes.

Other examples of common high vine training systems are the Geneva Double Curtain, Sylvoz, and Casarsa, a variant of Sylvoz. The first two systems are common in Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. Casarsa is common in western and central Friuli.

Sylvoz vine training system
Sylvoz vine training system

Low-Trained Vine Systems

Most Italian vineyards are trained using the standard vertical shoot positioning system (or a variation) whereby the fruiting canes are tied vertically to two horizontal wires. Within this category are the Cordone Speronato and Guyot systems.

The Cordone Speronato (single spur-pruned cordon) is characterised by a permanent cordon of old wood trained horizontally. This system is suitable for medium-to-poor soils and has the advantage of allowing mechanical pruning.

Cordone Speronato vine training system
Cordone Speronato vine training system

Guyot is a common training system that has been used in Italy with all its variants for a long time. In this system, one or two new canes are kept every year and are trained horizontally. It is particularly suitable in poor, dry hillside soils, where the vine has limited vegetative growth. Typical variants of the Guyot system are the Cappuccina, or Capovolto, traditionally used in Veneto and the Archetto used in Toscana.

Guyot vine training system
Guyot vine training system
Cappuccina vine training system
Cappuccina vine training system

Alberello is a traditional low training system of southern Italy and is particularly widespread in Sicilia, Sardegna, and Puglia. It was widely introduced to Italy by the ancient Greeks and is quite suitable for hot, arid climates. Vines are allowed to grow as free-standing, low bushes. It is a low-yielding and labour-intensive system that produces high-quality, very ripe grapes. The Alberello system is also used in some cooler northern regions, such as Valle d’Aosta, where the vine benefits from the precious extra heat radiating from the ground.

Alberello vine training system
Alberello vine training system