As an organic vineyard, we do not use any herbicides or synthetically processed concentrated fertilizers. We rely on compost for nutrients. Under-vine weed control is done mostly with tillage tools (I’ll show you how in an upcoming video). Both tilling and seeding use many of the same cover crop species, managed in different ways. Although the two techniques are often considered opposing methods, in reality they correspond to different types of terroir, varietals, climate, and the kinds of wine you want to make. In addition they often complement one another at different moments of the year because each method has its role to play.
Tilling helps aerate soil, accelerates the decomposition of organic matter, reduces water evaporation, and discourages superficial root systems for the vines. Because it limits plant competition and makes the alimentation of the vine easier, I use this technique when I need to assist the vigour of the vine. It’s perfect for old vines, poor soils and dry zones. In other words, I till in my parcels where the yields are naturally very low.
Seeding cover crop, on the other hand, makes the vine compete for water and minerals in the top 25 centimetres of the soil. It forces the vine to deploy its roots down into the deeper parts of the soil where its nutrients are poorer but more regular. Seeding also helps absorb excess rains, and helps fight against disease. By creating a protective vegetative cover, it prevents erosion, limits the compacting of the soil, and enhances the biodiversity of the vineyard both above ground and in the root zone. This technique is ideal for rich soils, wet climates, exuberant vines, and when the natural yields are naturally excessive.
There are also parcels where we maintain a natural cover crop in winter while the vineyard is dormant and then till during the vineyards active growing season. In order to accompany best our vineyards, we will chose the technique most adapted to the individual parcel. Way beyond dogmatic systematization, we stay open to what each of our vineyards express in order to produce truly crafted terroir wines.
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