Natural Selection (Jan - 2010)

Hahn Family Wines in California

Any winemaker worth their salt, and a place on The Society's List, has a vested interest in nurturing the soil that affords them a living. One of the problems with grape growing is that it is a monoculture and as such is naturally prone to attack from pests and diseases. How growers deal with these and encourage more biodiversity in their vineyards is the theme explored in the new List. We thought members might be interested to see some of these efforts in practice.

Hahn Family Wines

Hahn Family Wines in California's Napa Valley have recently achieved certification for the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Vineyard Program – a comprehensive and verifiable method to authenticate commitment to integrated farming practices and the environment. Biodiversity is encouraged providing habitat for wildlife like this bobcat. Nikita, a lanner falcon, is used to keep grape-eating starlings away in an environmentally friendly way.

The Bekaa Valley in the Lebanon, home to Chateau Musar's vineyards

The Bekaa Valley in the Lebanon, home to Chateau Musar's vineyards, is virtually frost and disease free, so it is no surprise to learn that the property is certified organic. But even here, Mother Nature is capable of surprises. The 2009 vintage will go down in history as the year of the late September deluge – unprecedented since records began in 1870. Fortunately most of the grapes had been gathered in and, as Gaston Hochar reported to members at a tasting in November, 'the only thing that was damaged was our pride concerning our presumption that rain never falls during the harvest in Lebanon.'

Guinea Fowl for Pest Control

Society buyer Jo Locke says that, 'Guinea fowl for pest control are a charming and very attractive sight in vineyards in South Africa. More so than the electric fences which many have to resort to in order to keep out the marauding baboons!' Bon Cap, suppliers of The Society's Pinotage, have been farming organically for years. They go to great trouble to obtain natural fertilisers, such as penguin guano and plant nitrogen-rich cover crops, such as lucerne and lupine between the rows. The photo is of a new block of pinotage vines, needed to supply members' increased demand for The Society's Pinotage.

Seresin Estate

Seresin Estate in Marborough, New Zealand

Seresin Estate in Marborough, New Zealand, were one of the first to embrace organic viticulture in the region. They now use biodynamic practices across much of the estate too. They have adopted many innovative techniques, but owner Michael Seresin says that what they are doing is, 'in essence traditional agriculture'. After seeing horses pulling ploughs in vineyards in France and Italy, the estate developed a horse-drawn sprayer to spread seaweed and compost teas over the vineyards. Stewart, a retired trotter, does the same work as an 80-horsepower tractor, resulting in less compaction of soils and fewer carbon emissions, and he can live off home-grown fuels such as grass and oats.

El Polilla

The El Polilla range of wines has been produced from organically farmed grapes especially for The Society by Alvaro Espinoza of Viñedos Organicos Emiliana. Alvaro is a pioneer in Chile, championing organic and biodynamic viticulture to enhance the expression of terroir in wines. Leaving flowers to grow and wintering llamas in the vineyards helps to encourage biodiversity. El polilla, means moth, Alavaro's nick name.

Domaine de l'Arjolle

Louis-Marie Teisserenc of Domaine
de l'Arjolle in the Languedoc

Louis-Marie Teisserenc of Domaine de l'Arjolle in the Languedoc is a leading proponent of lutte raisonnée. This is a viticultural approach based on integrated pest management and minimal intervention. He has been confusing bugs sexually for many years now (with the use of pheromones!)

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