On our recent trip to France, we took some pictures of vines in the Loire cultivated organically, and those cultivated using chemical herbicides and pesticides. Take a look at these two pictures:
On the left we have vines that were treated with chemical pesticides and herbicides. On the right we’re looking at the organically cultivated vines of Frédéric Sigonneau, at Domaine de l’R, our new Chinon producer. These two sections of vines are literally right next to each other, but couldn’t look more different. On the left the chemicals used have killed everything except the vines. The winemaker used a tractor to dispense these chemicals, and as a result the soil is totally lifeless and impenetrable. The water you see collected between the vines shows you how compacted the soil has become from years of passing through with a tractor and never ploughing the earth. How will any nutrients make it through that into the soil and then to the roots? On the right, our winemaker Frédéric has plowed his fields so water and other nutrients are free to penetrate the soil. Take a look at these closeups:
On the left you see the tractor crushed, lifeless and compact soil of Frédéric’s neighbor. The pesticides and herbicides have killed any potential food worms might find, so they have abandoned these vines. On the right you have Frederic’s soil, churned up, and full of life and worm castings. The worms do a lot of the work here, and are essential to organic viticulture. All this helps create a rich soil, full of biodiversity that helps the roots grow and drive deep into the ground. Healthy soil produces healthy roots, which in turn leads to healthier, more balanced grapes, and thus to better wine. But don’t take the soil’s word for it, pick up a bottle of Frédéric’s Chinon, Domaine de L’R, and taste the difference for yourself!