Though the vineyard is now aglow with autumnal colours, any respite is short-lived in the Dourthe vineyards.
And even though there is another two week of key activity in the winery while vinification is in full swing, it’s all hands on deck for the teams of vignerons. It’s now the start of working the soils, which is essential to maintain the vines and terroir in perfect harmony.
Griffage or howing is a type of ploughing which aerates the soils and relieves any compaction that may occur after all the activity in the vines over the course of the year. Cover plants – whether natural or sown – are then dug into the soil and add nutrients and organic matter to the soils as they break down over the winter.
Planting temporary cover crops
Temporary cover planting such as cereals or legumes (barley or vetch) can improve aeration and soil structure by promoting the presence of micro-organisms in the soils. Winter cover crops also improve the bearing capacity of the soils and prevent any erosion from winter rains. They act as a natural fertiliser in the spring when dug into the soil.
Chaussage in the young vines
Chaussage or buttage, depending on the wine region, is the process by which a small mound of earth is piled around the base of each vine. This is carried out for a number of reasons:
o to protect the young vines from frost damage
o to bury weeds and plant debris from between the vines
o to break up any superficial vine roots and in so doing force the roots to penetrate deeper into the soils
o to aerate and add structure to the soils
As soon as the first cold snap and when the vine has lost its leaves, pruning may commence. But that’s another story…