Of rain and flowers
While walking through our vineyards, I think of the weather conditions, which have at times been extreme, and how they have brought the vines to the flowering stage.
The Mediterranean varieties have all nearly finished flowering while the Cabernet franc clusters have just started losing their calyptras (flower caps) revealing the anthers and stigma.
In the last 40 days, there have not been more than 10 dry days, minimum temperatures were below 10°C, the sun came out rarely and timidly, there were three small hailstorms, and the soils remained cold and waterlogged: with the recent rains, total rainfall from the beginning of the year has reached 600mm (800mm is the average annual rainfall).
Despite such strong earth and water forces, the vines are growing, slowly but growing all the same, pushing their shoot tips towards the cosmos. A strong, wild and elastic plant, the vine feels and is aware of climatic conditions, adapting its annual and perennial cycle to the environment.
At the moment, our greatest concern is to monitor and check any possible mildew infections, which are potentially favoured by the rain and humidity. Up until now though, we have not found any signs of this fungal disease, except in a limited area where the vines are weak and in tricky farming conditions.
Plant and animal parasites have a precise and defined role in Nature, which is to destroy the weak and dying. Thus, a disease must be viewed as a symptom and not a cause. Through meticulous and precise farming practices that aim to increase the plants’ vitality and equilibrium, boosting their immune system, we will be able to achieve stronger vines and as a result reduce copper and sulphur spraying for plant protection.
As I walk through the vineyards, I am also learning to observe the wild plants and flowers growing between the rows.
Arrogantly, we call them weeds but only because they grow where we do not want them to be. On the other hand, in the same way that parasites are significant, the presence of weeds can be interpreted precisely. It is the language of Nature: through its colours, shapes and smells, it shows us where we have blundered but also how we can correct our mistakes.
This year, chamomile plants were particularly common. These plants grow in hard-packed soils that have been trampled when the ground was still waterlogged. Due to the frequent rains, we had to drive our tractors into the vineyards even when the ground was very humid, causing soil compaction and hypoxia in the first 20-30 cm of depth. Chamomile plants have quite long and tapering taproots that are able to dig into the superficial layers of soil, increasing its oxygen content. Furthermore, its flowers can be used as an infusion and sprayed, strengthening the vital body of the vine and improving the plant's ability to use sunlight through photosynthesis.
Nature, with its magnificence, wisdom and kindness, provides for everything.