Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bordeaux Viticulture

The final part of my trip in France, writes Richard McGeachy, was through the enormous expanse of vineyards around Bordeaux. It is hard to fathom 125,000+ hectares of vines looks like without driving through some of it.

The trellis’ in some of Bordeaux were much like that in McLaren Vale – wider spacing’s, cordon heights and equipment – particularly around Sauveterre.


As I drove up the side of the north side of the Gironde and across the estuary to the Medoc the vineyards changed again. As did the scenery! I was in Chateau country with some of the most beautiful residences I’ve ever seen. Chateau Margaux is pictured below.


The plantings got closer, trellis heights dropped and the soils turned to coarse gravel with large pebbles like those from a river bed.



The low, close trellis’ didn’t limit mechanization as opposed to the other regions I visited.

In previous reports I saw the Rhone has limited mechanization due to its steep river slopes and Burgundy has limited mechanization because of its trellis, and in some cases by the choice of the Burgundians.

In Bordeaux the machinery was unique - for example these Braud harvesters with hoppers which would unload at the end of rows instead of into a chaser bin.


It also introduced me to some equipment I had never seen before – a machine to burn the leaves of the bunch zone. Try to imagine a gas barbeque lying on its side…


The end result…


This aims to improve bunch exposure and spray penetration. Spray coverage is particularly important in years such as 2008, when I was visiting, with mild wet late summer/early autumn period. People I spoke to were looking to pick a couple of weeks early to prevent further losses to botrytis.

It was not overly hard to find outbreaks of powdery and downy mildew in some blocks and judging by the picture below botrytis too…. Half of these drums are Scala, the other half are Redlan (chlorpyrifos for grain storage).

Rubbish always tells the truth.
This chemical usage is interesting given that the varieties in the Medoc are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Both of the Cabernets in particular takes a great deal of moisture to get botrytis. Disease pressure must be high!

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