A branch of agriculture in its own right, viticulture requires special attention, even more so when it comes to organic viticulture. All the steps are then followed in a precise order, and the winegrower undertakes to closely respect the specifications of organic farming. You are curious to learn more about maintaining organic vines ? We take you to our vineyards!
Organic viticulture: the different steps to maintain the soil
If the vineyards produce such good grapes, and these same grapes produce such good wines, it is largely thanks to the soils. Being part of the terroir, just like the climate or the grape varieties, the soil is a major player in viticulture. It must therefore be maintained regularly to protect the vines from diseases and parasites. Whether to produce organic wines, natural wines or biodynamic wines, soil maintenance is done in several stages.
Praline the roots of the vines
Praline is a mixture of cow dung, clay and water, which organic winegrowers apply to the base of the vines before the arrival of winter. The objective is to protect the vine from the cold while the vines are resting. Pralination of the roots then makes it possible to maintain a sufficient temperature in the branches, so that the sap, rich in nutrients, continues to circulate to the buds.
Pulling out some organic vines
In certain cases, it may happen that the rootstock or grape variety grown on a plot is not adapted to the terroir. The yield is then not there, and the wine grower is obliged to uproot these vines , which will then be burned, to prevent pests from spreading. This technique should be applied with caution, as it tends to traumatize the floors.
Weed around the vines
Organic viticulture is a mode of production that never uses chemicals or synthetic products, the producer must therefore use gentle methods to ensure the growth of his vines. Grassing is one of the essential techniques. This involves removing the grass that grows between the vines, so that it does not compete with the plant by depriving it of the nutrients present in the soil.
The use of inter-vine brushes then makes it possible to protect the soil from erosion that could cause weeding.
Fertilize the soil with green manure
Green manures are all plants grown for the sole purpose of nourishing and fertilizing the soil. They are then placed at the foot of the vines, and share all their good nutrients with the vine.
Green manure has the advantage of having roots which will make it easier to work the soil and improve the penetration of air and water. But it also allows, after the harvest, to take over from the vines when they are at rest. Throughout the winter, the organic vineyard sleeps, while green manure enriches the soil and stores good nutrients until spring.
Place a plant cover at the foot of the vines
In the same way that we like to cover ourselves with a warm duvet in winter, the vine appreciates keeping our feet warm. Plant covers then play the role of protection against cold and frost , but they also have the advantage of protecting the soil from desiccation. In organic vine growing, plant covers are simply made of straw , a very effective element in countering winter cold and frost.
In spring, to gently wake up the soil and the vines, the winegrower replaces the straw with manure.
Get help from sheep
Organic viticulture aims to let nature and biodiversity express themselves. So what could be more natural than asking animals for help to preserve the quality of the vines? The sheep herd is part of eco-grazing techniques , or ecopastoralism, which allow spaces to be maintained by herbivorous animals.
In organically farmed vineyards, sheep then graze on grass and foliage that could harm the proper growth of the vines. This technique, however, requires special attention, because the sheep does not really distinguish between what it is allowed to eat or not. It is therefore necessary to avoid the flowering period , as the animal could risk dropping the buds, or simply eating them.
The main aim of all these techniques is to avoid the use of phytosanitary products . Depending on the wine-growing regions, producers then apply various methods to the entire vine surface, ranging from natural pesticides to Bordeaux mixture (natural fungicide).
Other soil maintenance techniques for organic wine production
To strictly comply with the specifications imposed by the European Union, and which regulate obtaining the AB label , other techniques are recommended for taking care of an organic vine .
- Green harvest : certain appellations impose a maximum yield per hectare of vines. So, to limit the yield of organic vines, the professional can carry out green harvests. For this, during flowering, it reduces the number of buds and retains the most beautiful and promising ones;
- Pruning vines in organic farming: pruning organic vines can stress the plant. To limit this stress as much as possible, and the diseases it can cause, you must choose the perfect time to prune the branches. You must then wait until the beginning of spring, when the weather warms up and the sap slowly rises along the branches;
- Trimming the vines : for the grapes to fill up with sun and sugar, you need to be able to give them good exposure to the sun. Trimming the top of the vines then allows the vine to be ventilated and the berries exposed to the sun . The goal is to only prune the upper ends, so that the foliage continues to shade the base of the vine.
Much more rigorous than conventional viticulture, organic viticulture is also more respectful and attentive to nature. This is what allows it to fully express the richness of the terroir, through exceptional wines like we produce at the Berne estate.