Lutte contre le gel dans les vignes avec des bougies

fight against nature

Posted by Armand Heitz on

It's becoming systematic. Almost every year, in the months of April and May, we are forced to light candles or braziers in our vineyards. Some proceed differently, they turn wind turbines or helicopters to stir the air and heat it above the plots. The end goal is the same: protect the buds that have already emerged to prevent them from freezing and losing the harvest. It makes for pretty photos and videos, posts that are liked and shared. But why does man prefer to fight against nature rather than adapt?

We have all seen Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth". Man puts ice cubes in the ocean to fight against global warming. I find that we are on the same process with our current practices in the vineyards to fight against frost. These are short-term “solutions” that do not address the root problem. We suffer more than we act. Large sums are spent on this fight, tens of thousands of euros each year. Europe financially helps winegrowers to fight against nature. It's not a snake biting its own tail, it's definitely a crocodile stepping on its head.

Our memory is too short. Before 1960, our plots were not made up of clones. There were therefore more or less precocious, more or less fertile vines within the vines. True diversity. The monks who built our vineyard would never have planted vines that freeze every year! It's an aberration that everyone seems fine with.

Aren't the clonal selections on our grape varieties completely obsolete?

Our grape varieties have very little resistance to frost but also to disease. But since we have good chemical treatments that can fight these diseases, all is well! It would seem that the economic aspect takes precedence over environmental sustainability. A lot of money is at stake; the sale of fertilizers, treatments, the small yields that this operation generates make the wines rarer and therefore more expensive. A virtuous economic system is in place, so why change?

It should therefore be remembered that in the 1960s, IFV and INRA decided to set up a genetic selection of grape varieties. They saw fit to take matters into their own hands in order to clean up the vines and fight against disease. You can also see it as a means of control. A fine example that illustrates a suppression of freedom in the name of preconceived and fixed ideas. The consequence is a very restricted selection of individuals who get sick at the same time, who freeze at the same time. I really like to compare our plots to the clone army in Star Wars. All the stocks in our vines are alike: same development, same need, same size, same color. After “The Phantom Menace” of diseases, we retaliated with “Attack of the Clones” and maybe today is “Revenge of the Sith”: nature takes revenge with episodes of frost and drought . When will “A New Hope” be before “The Empire Strikes Back”?

Armée des clones Star Wars

We are surrounded by clones and individuals with very little diversity. Not just in Burgundy. This is even proven on the whole of the French vineyard by this figure: 60% of the vines are composed of less than 10 individuals: merlot, uni blanc, grenache, syrah, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, carignan, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc. Today there are 8,000 identified varieties in the world.Why are only 10 used? Is it for marketing reasons? Business reasons? Why not, however this reasoning results in strong CO2 emissions and significant chemical treatments Shouldn't we take back our rights in order to control the diversification of our plots?

In Burgundy, to qualify for the famous appellations, the specifications impose the use of specific clones of Chardonnay and others of Pinot Noir. It is really time to experiment in our region with new, more resistant grape varieties. It saddens me deeply to have to fight against nature every year at this time. Let nature and grape varieties evolve and stop depending on unhealthy organisms.

Armand Heitz


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