Goblet pruning is still used on the old vines and varieties with an upright bearing, such as Carignan, Mourvèdre and even Grenache. The method is traditional to the region and produces a good area of leaf cover exposed to the light for those varieties that are suited to it.
The other plots are trellised to keep the plant growth upright and give it good exposure to the sun and the air. The trellises are either new
or rebuilt to give them sufficient height and provide the vine with ideal leaf cover.
The vines are pruned in either the bilateral cordon style
Video by Dominique Boudet: click here
or, for the more recently planted vines, in a personal pruning (between fan-shaped and goblet style). It allows a better aeration than the gobelet and a better ageing than the cordon (we think).
Video by Dominique Boudet: click here
The soils are maintained in the traditional way. The vines are ploughed to restrict weed growth, mainly in the spring to limit competition. This also aerates the soil to maintain good organic activity and keep the soil full of life. A bit of grass and weed is allowed to grow after the harvest and during the winter to help with this activity and improve drainage.
The soils are analysed regularly and maintained by adding organic matter where necessary.
The fight against diseases and insect pests is dictated purely by observation and weather information, which means that we can keep spraying to the strict minimum (usually 2 or 3 sessions). It also means that we use less fuel, thereby reducing our ‘carbon footprint’, and that the soil is less compacted.
Our choice of spraying products is also determined by our concern to maintain biological balance in the vineyards, their soil and their environment. We are therefore fighting disease in an environmentally-friendly way, without rigidity but with an intellectual rigour and honesty.
La Madura prefers to use a preventive approach, doing a lot of thinning work in spring and summer to improve the flow of air around the vine and the grapes: removing suckers from the centre of the trunk, and thinning out the leaves. This sort of work is time-consuming and labour-intensive, but it keeps the vines and grapes healthier and improves ripening.
In addition, we choose our products out of a concern to maintain the biological balance of the vines, the soil and their environment. We’re involved in an environmentally-friendly approach that doesn’t follow any particular dogma but aims to be rigorous and intellectually honest. As a result of this approach we were awarded HAUTE VALEUR ENVIRONNEMENTALE (HVE = High Environmental Value) certification in 2015.
HVE is a national scheme set up by the “Grenelle 2” Environment Act, the first official texts of which were published in the Official Journal in June 2011. It covers four environmental aspects: biodiversity, pest management strategy, fertilization management and water resource management. See the bottom of the page for further information.
Video by Dominique Boudet: click here
NOTE ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
The way in which we work is determined by ecology: concern for the environment and its balances (the life of the soil, supportive animal life, plants and other animals) and limited inputs and CO2 production.
Sadly, little consideration is given to these aspects in the “organic” charter. You can kill your soils with copper (a heavy metal), spray excessively for no reason (not a “responsible” approach), use huge amounts of diesel fuel, compact your soils, not care for your ecosystem, machine-harvest, etc. and abide by the charter (1). Organic certification is certainly better than over-using ecologically toxic products, but it’s not really a cure-all.
What we are concerned about first and foremost is to have living soils. We allow the vineyards to grass over naturally after the harvest until springtime (we plough during the warm weather only, and then as little as possible); this encourages soil life, limits gullying and cuts down fuel consumption. Chemical fertilisers are banned: we add only organic matter, using natural products of plant origin (organic label !). We do a great deal of thinning work in the vines (using a lot of labour for meticulous shoot removal, trellising, leaf-thinning, etc.) to limit production, encourage the grapes to ripen, improve their expression of terroir and ensure that they are in good health. This preventive work means that we can keep spraying to a minimum as it allows for good air circulation around the vines and bunches. In a normal year we only spray twice (to fight against oidium, no anti-mildew spraying). We believe that very few wine estates go this far in their approach as it is very expensive in terms of labour costs. We hope that, one day, a label will be created that objectively and scientifically incorporates all the variables linked to environmental protection. This point was raised during the French government’s Grenelle de l’environnement (environmental consultation exercise). We are waiting, in the hope that an ecologically coherent label will emerge.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for any further information you may require. You are also very welcome to come and see what we do in our vineyards: words are one thing, action is another.
(1) - We need to understand that a so-called “natural” product (because, let’s face it, there’s chemistry behind a bag of Bordeaux mixture or sulphur) is not necessarily less toxic than a synthetic product, which in many cases reproduces a molecule that exists in nature. It may be targeted and harmless to supportive animal life, soils, etc., and used in low doses (of a few grams per hectare) while sulphur and copper are applied in doses of several kg per hectare. When it is effective, it requires less use of the tractor. These synthetic products obviously need to be chosen with care, but it cannot be said that, because they are synthetic, they are more toxic. Copper is a highly toxic product that stays in the soil for a long time (decades). Its prolonged use as part of a so-called “organic” prevention campaign can slowly kill the soil.
HAUTE VALEUR ENVIRONNEMENTALE (HVE): “Environmental Certification of Agricultural Operations” is a national scheme set up by the “Grenelle 2” Environment Act, the first official texts of which were published in the Official Journal in June 2011.
The official scheme was set up and recognized by the Government and is applied on 3 levels to enable the farmer or wine-grower to move forward in stages. “High Environmental Value” is the 3rd and final level of commitment representing the scheme’s level of excellence. It alone gives access to the regulated “High Environmental Value” label. It covers four environmental aspects: biodiversity, pest management strategy, fertilization management and water resource management.
Level 1: This level covers the key regulatory obligations relating to good agro-ecological conditions, plant health and environmental protection.
From a technical point of view, the agricultural operation must:
- Have an assessment carried out by an SCA-approved organization (SCA = Système de Conseil Agricole = Agricultural Advisory System), in accordance with a set of specifications very similar to the cross-compliance rules covering CAP grants (CAP = Common Agricultural Policy).
- Have an assessment of the operation carried out in relation to the Level 2 reference document or in relation to the Level 3 environmental performance thresholds.
Level 2: This level covers the good practices required to construct a basis for progress.
From a technical point of view, these are mainly good environmental protection practices that should be introduced on the operation. The farmer or wine-grower should:
- Embark on a progress strategy based on 16 environmental improvement commitments.
- Have an audit carried out by an independent body to confirm his level.
The farmer or wine-grower may work towards this Level 2 commitment by following a strategy recognized as being Level 2 equivalent. In France, various forms of certification such as “Agriculture raisonnée”, “Terra Vitis”, “Qualenvi”, “Bio”, etc., are accepted as being equivalent to Level 2.
Level 3: This is the scheme’s most stringent level.
From a technical point of view, the farmer or wine-grower must achieve levels of environmental performance measured by indicators in several areas:
1- Biodiversity: This refers to improvements introduced by the farmer or wine-grower to encourage and protect auxiliary fauna, pollinating insects, vineyard landscapes, game refuges, etc. (we talk of “AEI” (Agro-Ecological Infrastructures) and “Landscape Features”). These semi-natural environments, essential to the implementation of a sustainable development policy, form habitats, transition zones and connectivity environments that favour the diversity of plant and animal species; for example: grass strips, hedges, copses, low dry stone walls, mountain pasture, grassland forbidden to grazing animals, etc.
2- Crop protection: Even if it is technically necessary to use pest control products, excessive use has negative impacts on the environment. We are interested here in alternatives to chemical control, such as sexual confusion or tillage.
3- Crop maintenance: This is concerned with grassing, nitrate fertilization and irrigation practices, if these are used on the operation.
4- The influence of inputs on the financial balance:Inputs(pest control products, electricity, fuel, boxes, bottles, etc. in terms of their financial value) are compared to the operation’s earnings.
An audit has to be carried out by an accreditedcertification body to certify the operation’s environmental performance.
The certification award gives the farmer or wine-grower the right to use the reserved, regulated statements: “High Environmental Value Operation” and “Wine from a High Environmental Value estate”.
For further information: