Biodiversity & the Bordeaux Vineyards : A Virtuous Partnership

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“Protecting natural resources and biodiversity, as well as the well-being and health of the employees of our winegrowing businesses and the residents around them – all aimed at the quality of our wines – are among the many factors on which each member of the wine trade can have an effect. Our collective awareness and combined efforts have allowed us to make real progress. We haven’t reached perfection but considering how far we’ve come we remain confident in our process of constant improvement.” said Mr Allan Sichel, CIVB President of Bordeaux Wine Council.

 

For over 20 years, the Bordeaux wine trade has been committed to accountable and sustainable winegrowing. The trade’s goal is an ambitious one: get 100% of the vineyards involved in an environmental process.

 

In 2017, 60% of the Bordeaux vineyard was involved in an environmental process. One of the major measures of that active environmental policy is the protection of the animal and plant biodiversity because nature is a precious ally in adapting crops to the changes in their environment and its resiliency. That biodiversity is also the sign of healthy, balanced vineyards.

 

Among the many initiatives are:

–       an unprecedented study on bats as natural predators of insects harmful to the vines

–       change in cultivation practices and a wider view regarding the vineyard as an ecosystem

–       a determined commitment by the Bordeaux wine trade thanks to the integration of agri-environmental measures into the AOC rules.

 

A helping hand from bats: natural pest predators

Bats proved to be effective in the face of the moth from two viewpoints:

–       the study of bats and their eating habits in the Bordeaux vineyards showed the presence of grapevine moth DNA in the bat guano (excrement)

–       the results demonstrated the capacity of bats to adapt their activity to feed on the moths: their hunting activity is 3 times higher when the harmful moths are present.

 

The bats studied in the Gironde are exclusively insectivorous. The Gironde has 22 of the 30 species inventoried in France. Bats are voracious predators that devour 2000 insects a night on average, which makes them precious assistants in the face of this particular vine pest. 

An online bat observatory: in 2018, in partnership with the GIP ATGeRi*, the CIVB developed an online tool (internet and smartphone application) to identify bat colonies, based on observations and reports by winegrowers. Via a geolocation system, professionals can report an isolated bat observed in flight as well as the presence of a colony of bats.

*Public interest group – Territory Planning and Risk Management

 

Some wine estates have now proceeded with adjustments to promote the settlement of bats in their vineyards: leaving old abandoned cabins in the vineyards or installing bat houses to shelter the colonies; watering holes or unmown grassy strips to make it easier for the bats to enter the rows of vines.

 

Thought is now being given to the measures to take on a more global scale (throughout an AOC, in particular) so that the bats can have enough food resources year round (outside of the grapevine moth “season”) and thus make the settlement of colonies more permanent and allow them to consume as many harmful moths as they like.

 

Changes in cultivation practices to promote biodiversity

 

The vineyards and the surrounding area

 

In concrete terms, the special attention given to the areas around vineyards has led to:  

 –       establishing flowering fallow land and leaving grassy areas uncut and mown once a year just before harvesting the grapes

–       planting trees in the vineyards (agroforestry) or alongside them to promote the presence of insects (ladybugs, dragonflies, etc.) and small animals in the vineyards. Dead trees left on site serve as places of refuge for insects and birds.

–       planting hedges:  in 2018, a total of nearly 23 kilometres of protective shrub hedges were planted with the participation of the non-profit “Arbres et Paysages”. The hedges, incorporating a mix of local varieties, help maintain a diversified environment and provide a variety of places of refuge for fauna as well as a natural food supply.  Along the same lines, with the financial support of the Gironde Federation of Hunters, over 3000 metres of ecological corridors have been re-established on approximately ten estates. The corridors stimulate the development of game.

–       setting up beehives has led to pollinators permanently settling down in the vineyards.

 

These reservoirs of biodiversity form an ecosystem with the vines (aimed at avoiding single-crop farming) and help create a better ecological balance in the vineyard.

 

Research supporting and reinforcing biodiversity practices

 

VITINOV, backed by the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (I.S.V.V.), is a technology transfer unit allowing the wine trade to benefit from the concrete findings of viticultural research.

Their projects include 3 studies focused on biodiversity:

 

–       MUSCARI Project

The goal is to help growers adopt so-called “ordinary” biodiversity better. Several initiatives have been set up, in particular data collection aimed at creating botanical combinations optimised for grass cover.

 

–       VITIPOLL Project: “VITIculture and POLLinators”

The objective is to set up floral strips favourable to pollinators using seeds on the scale of an entire winegrowing AOC.

The creation of ecological corridors is fostered by consulting those involved and increasing their awareness (in both urban and winegrowing areas). Grassy corridors favourable to wild pollinators have been implemented with seeds native to the area and certified as “Local”. The AOC Margaux territory is a pioneering, pilot site on this topic.

 

–       PhytAE Project: “Evolution of practices towards sustainable viticulture: agro-ecological and phytosanitary aspects”

This project is aimed at studying levers for “Acting in favour of more ethical winegrowing”, in particular through the study of soil management practices (soil tillage, grass cover, etc.) on the biodiversity of viticultural soil (communities of insects in the soil, mesofauna, lumbricina) and the ecosystemic services that they provide (decomposition of organic matter, soil fertility, etc.). The study is currently being conducted on a network of plots in production and should lead to very concrete recommendations as early as 2020.

 

AOCs stand up for biodiversity: integration of agri-environmental measures in specifications for Bordeaux AOCs

 

In addition to individual initiatives, collective tools support the development of biodiversity. As such, the agri-environmental measures recently adopted in the Bordeaux AOC specifications demonstrate the winegrowers’ willpower and determination to get involved in ethical initiatives:

 

To this end, the recently adopted EGALIM law (Law N°2018-938 dated Oct. 30, 2018) specifically provides for that possibility in Article 48, which is going to enable progress. It will even become a requirement by 2030.

 

A few examples of good practices on Bordeaux wine estates

 

CHÂTEAU ARBO

40 hectares – Francs Côtes de Bordeaux

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2010

Agroforestry serving biodiversity

We develop agroforestry within our plots. To promote the site’s substantial biodiversity, we plant hedges in the middle of our plots that are over 2 hectares, and maintain natural hedges around the vineyards.  That protects the habitats of the estate’s birds, tortoises and bats. We’ve reverted back to a few basic practices, like mowing, that we used to do systematically in our vineyard, but nowadays we have much more extensive plant cover, with alternate mowing in the rows and we mow the paths between the vines only once, before the harvest.” said Bernadette Arbo, Owner.

 

CHÂTEAU D’ARCHE

56 hectares – Sauternes, Grand Cru Classé

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2010

Hedges planted alongside vine plots

We’re very proud to be tilling the soil again, even though sometimes it’s hard to accept having vines in a condition that doesn’t completely satisfy us. We’ve recovered better balances instead, in our vines as well as in our wines. We’ve noticed that flora is more diverse and some species of insects are coming back. Despite the constraints, no one is discouraged and, on the contrary, the whole team remains motivated to carry on the adventure.” said Jérôme Cosson, Eestate Manager.

 

LE BON PASTEUR

15 hectares – Pomerol

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2017

Flowering fallow land for pollinators in the vineyard

To protect and maintain our site’s biodiversity, we’ve set up flowering fallow land. The seeds are beneficial for pollinators and other small insects around the vineyard.” saidBenoît Prevot, Director.

 

CHÂTEAU BOURDICOTTE & GRAND FERRAND

179 hectares – Bordeaux Supérieur

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2015

Agroforestry and Biodiversity Inventory

We’ve planted 220 metres of protective hedges with local varieties on some of our plots. The natural barriers will be a landmark for bats fond of grapevine moths (harmful for grapes). To comprehend the estate’s biodiversity, we conducted an inventory of the flora and fauna. The goal of that study was to evaluate the function of the components existing on the estate so we could get a clear picture of any deficiencies there might be, whether in quality or quantity.” said Jean-Baptiste Soula, CEO.

 

CHÂTEAU BRANDA

21 hectares Puisseguin Saint-Emilion – 14 hectares Lussac Saint-Emilion

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2015

Developing and protecting soil life

Protecting biodiversity is a daily challenge as far as our cultivation practices are concerned. For the past 3 years, we’ve been spreading green manure in the autumn between the rows, which naturally enriches our land in organic matter, while playing a role in aerating the soil through the root system of the cereal and leguminous plants that we let grow until vine bud break. Besides contributing essential elements to the vines, doing so actively helps develop and protect the soil’s natural biodiversity. What’s more, we only clear out our (drainage) ditches once a year in the autumn, in order to let the natural flora develop there.” Paul Rafin, said Estate Supervisor.

 

CHÂTEAU LA BRANDE

16 hectares – Fronsac

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2017

A prairie to promote bees and bat houses

We’ve made adjustments to promote and protect pollinators in the vineyard. We set up hives and created a patchwork of prairies, with different seeds so we have pollen from April to October for the bees. We also set up houses for bats – the vineyard’s natural predator in the fight against grapevine moths.” said Benoît Soulies, Manager.

 

CHÂTEAU BRILLETTE

44 hectares – Moulis-en-Médoc

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2015

Protecting and increasing the site’s biodiversity

We’re actively participating in the protection of our vineyard’s biodiversity. Our vines are covered in grass, and hedges have been planted alongside the plots; they create natural, green corridors for local fauna. We’ve also set up hives on the estate and we coexist with bats that are now very common on the estate.” said Lucile Dijkstra, Director.

 

CHÂTEAU DAUZAC

45 hectares – Margaux

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2012

Protecting a showcase of biodiversity within our vineyard

We’ve set up and promoted a zone of biodiversity on our current grounds, covering 60 hectares of woods and prairies. The grounds include an orchard and a lake, home to storks and other birds. We’ve installed 18 hives, and sheep that graze to maintain the grounds. Setting up this reservoir of biodiversity and agroforestry is a reflection of our current practices and our future intentions that we talk about and discuss with the local residents.  We also use plants produced on the estate for our biodynamic practices.said Philippe Roux, Technical Manager.

 

CHÂTEAU D’EYRAN

36 hectares – Pessac-Léognan

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2017

Protecting our vineyard’s ecosystem

“We maintain a rich, fertile ecosystem by covering our inter-rows in grass and preserving the estate’s trees and hedges. We also pay special attention to bats.” said Charles Savigneux, Co-Manager.

 

CHÂTEAU GUIRAUD

112 hectares – Sauternes

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2013

Putting the emphasis on biodiversity and ecological control

“Biodiversity was the subject of a census in 2010 that revealed 635 species of arthropods. There are places of refuge all around the vineyards: hedges, forests, trees, insect hotels, low walls, and cabins. Since 2015, the vegetable garden is home to several varieties of tomatoes, vegetables, herbs and flowers. The garden is, on top of the other agro-ecological facilities already present on the site, an additional refuge for insects.” said Luc Planty, Director.

 

CHÂTEAU MONT-PERAT

98 hectares – Bordeaux, Côtes de Bordeaux

Member of the 1st EMS association certified ISO 14001 and HVE – involved since 2017

Local varieties of shrubs and hedges planted

“Within the framework of harmonising the site’s environment, we’ve planted hedges and shrubs. The shrubs are local varieties: oak, pine, umbrella pine, hornbeam, horse chestnut, etc. Those agroforestry efforts provide habitats for the vineyard’s fauna.” said Joël Elissalde, Technical Manager.

 

The good practices of the estates mentioned above are from the “2018 Guide of Good Environmental Practices by the EMS for Bordeaux wines”. (transmission of complete file upon request, in French only)

 

The guide is aimed at spreading the good practices of the EMS members in the Bordeaux wine trade.

 

Launched in 2010, the Environmental Management System (EMS) for Bordeaux Wines relies on voluntary involvementpooling resources as well as sharing experiences and skills between the Bordeaux wine trade’s various stakeholders (winegrowers, négociants, etc.). Through working groups, members share good practices based on social and environmental objectives.

 

The aim of the EMS is to get estates involved in a process for making progress and, if they so wish, to work towards a collective ISO 14001 or HVE certification. 

 

It is worth noting that as of January 1, 2019, the Gironde was the top département in terms of the number of HVE estates (400) in France.  The EMS has played a significant role in those outstanding results, given that 221 estates were certified in 2018.

 

Eight years after being launched, the EMS process now accounts for over 800 businesses of all sizes, made up of 40 working groups, covering over 25,000 hectares, i.e. 20% of the Bordeaux vineyard’s 112,200 hectares.

 

The process for making collective and sustainable environmental progress driven by the EMS plays an active role in the goal of getting 100% of the vineyards involved in an environmental process.

 

If you would like more information about the involvement and initiatives led by the Bordeaux wine trade in favour of sustainable development, please visit:

 

–          https://www.bordeaux.com/fr/vignoble-engage

–          2018 Guide of Good Environmental Practices by the EMS for Bordeaux wines

–          http://www.flip-book.online/SME/GuideBonnesPratiques/

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