As life today becomes increasingly complex, we are all looking to simplify choices, whether at home, at work or even in our free time. We all want to believe that in response to the onslaught of information and the growing number of decisions to be made, a standardized and systematic approach is a factor of simplification and therefore quality of life. Yet as a winemaker, I find that the empirical approach, based on observation, and the ability to adapt to what nature is telling us, allows us to better respond to the needs of our vines.
Most winemakers have a vineyard management approach based on either terroir or grape variety. Here are three examples of how we manage our vines according to their terroir and/or their grape variety. Firstly, within the same plot, when we distinguish different types of soils, we analyze them separately in order to understand their characteristics. This leads us to have different rootstocks within the same plot, so as to use the most suitable rootstock for each area. Secondly, we train our vines with the method that best suits how they want to naturally grow and set fruit: using the “Cordon de Royat” for Syrah; head-trained vines for Grenache and Mourvèdre; or “Guyot” for Viognier. And thirdly, our cover-crop approach depends on the type of soil, its richness and its water capacity. We currently use seeding, natural flora or tilling.
The next step is to accompany the individual vine’s balance that will later translate into balanced grapes. We’ve gone further in our “observation-driven” approach. While pruning we adapt how we trim to the vigor of each vine in function of its past year’s growth. Come spring, if needed we adjust the number of shoots in function of the vine’s growth as well as the volume of bud break, so that each shoot has the strength to develop fully. Later, when necessary, we adjust load manually in function of each vine’s foliage (its height and density) in order to assure the vine’s ability to nourish its fruit.
Our biggest challenge today is the many types of wood disease (see the Chateau de Nages blog article of April 1, 2016 “Splitting wood”). These diseases have led us to inspect each vine in July to identify those that need treatment in order to assure that they grow old in good health. Then at the end of the summer, we go through each row to identify vines that are infected in order to eliminate them and prevent the spread of the disease.
We are convinced that the more we personalize our approach, the more each plant will develop in its own environment, the less it will need help to fight external aggression. As an extension of our organic farming, this approach encourages the creation of a virtuous ecosystem. We are dedicated to a stewardship that keeps our vineyards healthy, balanced and fruitful as long as possible. Old vines always give us the most beautiful juices. This work of observation and individual adaptation allows not only better results but makes the everyday work so much more interesting and satisfying for all of us in the our vineyard team.
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