THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SOIL AT MENADE
Needless to say it is our many and varied soils that (literally) provide the whole foundation of our philosophy and the way we work our vineyards.
During the winter, vines go into a state of vegetative repose, sap ceases to circulate within the plants, and so this is when we choose to prune. At Menade, prior to pruning manually, we carry out a useful, mechanized pre-prune which makes our subsequent labours a little easier.
We also use this time of year to further our investigative efforts and get to grips with the state and necessities of our soils so that we’re as prepared as possible for the challenges of the next cycle and harvest.
For four years now, each winter, we’ve therefore dug a series of trial pits in a number of different parcels in order to study our vines’ root systems and how they develop, analysing the composition of the soil at different strata (40, 80, and 100 centimetres) given that it is not unusual for roots to travel down to depths of more than a metre and a half.
The many samples that we extract reveal the varying levels of nutrients, pH and acidity present, and from these we can ascertain the effectiveness of the preventative treatments that we apply throughout the vegetative cycle.
Given the diversity of soils in our different parcels – which are composed of differing percentages of clay, limestone, sand, and pebbles – we run our checks over a spread of quite distinct sites.
Combatting maladies that affect the wood of vines
One the deadliest afflictions that can plague vines is Tinder – also known as Apoplexy Parasite. This, as implied in the name, is a parasitic disease caused by fungi that penetrate the wood through major pruning wounds and winds up completely desiccating and ultimately killing the plant. Once present, its onset is especially rapid in clay soils, which are deep and fresh; and once upon a time – in more brutalistic times – it was controlled by the truly radical application of sodium arsenic, the use of which has been prohibited for some years.
Menade, however, is one of a very few wineries to effectively fight this scourge in a natural way.
This basically consists of combatting pathogens biologically, which may sound rather drastic, but boils down to fighting one series of fungi with another – in this case trichoderma, a genus of the family Hypocreaceae, present in all soils, where they are the most prevalent culturable fungi .
The procedure is quite simply to coat the cuts/lacerations that result from each new pruning with a specially prepared liquid solution which works well during the low winter temperatures and quickly colonizes the plant to create a sealant that impedes invasion from the opposing forces.
It’s a slow process that needs repeating every year, but, after three years, it’s gradually doing the trick and we are not only grateful to those like-minded producers in France and Portugal who spurred us on; but delighted too that it fits our on-going ‘eco-logical’ philosophy.