While the warm glow of autumn pervades the vineyard, once harvesting has come to a close, there is no time for relaxation in the Dourthe vineyards. And if the mainstay of activities may continue for another few weeks in the wineries during this crucial winemaking period, the work of the vigneron is no less critical; the time is ripe for working the soils and focusing on maintaining the essential balance between the vines and the terroir.

Hoe-ploughing - Château Belgrave

Hoe-ploughing – Château Belgrave – Dourthe

Hoe-ploughing or “griffage”

is a form of ploughing that helps to loosen and aerate soils that have become compacted as a result of man and machines passing up and down the vineyard throughout the year. Any plant cover, whether natural or sowed, is dug over and left to break down naturally over the winter.

o Temporary crops of cereals or pulses can be introduced to improve soil structure, and to promote the presence of micro-organisms in the soil. Winter cover crops also help improve the bearing capacity of the soil and avoid any erosion caused by winter rains. When dug into the soil, they also help natural fertilisation in the spring.

Winter cover - Château La Garde - Dourthe

Winter cover – Château La Garde – Dourthe

“Chaussage” or “buttage”

is the process by which the earth is piled around the base of young vines in small mounds. This is carried out for a number of reasons:
o To protect the young vines from frost damage and humidity
o To bury weeds and plant debris and promoting natural amendments in the soils
o To break up superficial vine roots, forcing the vine to push deeper into the soil
o To aerate and add structure to the soils.

"Chaussage" of Young vines - Château La Garde - Dourthe

“Chaussage” of Young vines – Château La Garde – Dourthe

With the arrival of the first signs of winter, once the leaves have fallen, pruning can begin. And that’s a whole new chapter…