TravelGuides – Draught wines: French vineyards rediscover the power of horses | Animals

TravelGuides – Draught wines: French vineyards rediscover the power of horses | Animals

It’s early morning and the air vibrates with the sound of birds and frogs at the L’Affût wine property in Sologne, north-central France. Draught horses Urbanie and Bambi are slowly working their method between rows of vines. Carefully guided by their proprietor, Jean-Pierre Dupont, and his son, they every pull a cultivator that drags up grass rising between the grapevines.

Several occasions a 12 months, Urbanie and Bambi might be seen working at L’Affût, typically to the shock of passersby: working horses might be deemed out of date, relics of a time earlier than the mid-twentieth century’s mechanisation of farming.

The winery’s proprietor, Isabelle Pangault, acquired her property in 2018 and didn’t got down to work with horses. It was solely as she discovered extra about her land that the thought took form. “It became quite obvious when I looked at one plot, that I wanted to use horses,” she says.

That plot is dwelling to vines planted in 1894, sinuous vegetation that might simply be broken by a tractor whereas weeding. Pangault hadn’t typically seen draught horses in vineyards however knew they permit a extra exact strategy; analysis helped her to seek out Urbanie and Bambi.

Pangault is one of at the least 300 winegrowers throughout mainland France and Corsica utilizing draught horses recognized throughout a current examine, Equivigne.

A horse does the weeding among the vines on a vineyard in Tours, France.
Jean-Pierre Dupont and his son with their horses Urbanie and Bambi at L’Affût winery in Tours, France. Photograph: Pascal Montagne/The Guardian

The examine was carried out by the French Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE), in partnership with the French Wine and Vine Institute (IFV), and its outcomes have been offered final month at a convention on draught horses in viticulture.

Clémence Bénézet, who co-authored the examine, has researched the working horse business for the previous decade. “Draught horse professionals, in viticulture in particular, were economically successful and witnessed a demand greater than the supply due to a lack of service providers,” she says of research she carried out in 2017. “There was therefore potential for this sector to develop.”

Equivigne sought to realize a greater understanding of the current re-emergence of working horses in viticulture. It discovered that technical issues akin to terrain (or in Pangault’s case, previous vines) was one cause to make use of horses, however soil well being was the main issue. Horses provide an alternative choice to chemical herbicides and compact the soil lower than a tractor.

For this cause, Pangault now plans to make use of horses on a plot with newly planted grapevines. “The objective is to avoid compacting the soil from the beginning of the life of the plot,” she explains. This will result in higher soil construction and, consequently, more healthy vegetation.

During final 12 months’s harvest, Pangault employed Urbanie to tug a container forward of grape-pickers. Although not an affordable choice, she selected it to spare the grape-pickers being uncovered to the fumes and noise of a tractor.

Her resolution paid off in methods she had not anticipated. “I cried when I saw it. The atmosphere was completely different when the horse was there: people were laughing, they were working at the same rhythm as one another. Horses really have this magical power,” she says.

Pangault is in the course of of changing her property to natural and can be considering biodynamic certification. Her profile corresponds to the Equivigne findings. Of the estates utilizing horses that responded to its survey, 68% have been licensed natural and 22% had the Demeter biodynamic certification, figures a lot increased than the nationwide common. Working with horses ties in with an environmental mindset.

“When you want to put life back [into land], you need flora and fauna. The flora will be the habitat for the insects or birds that will help me control pests,” says Pangault.

“It was also quite obvious to me that big animals had a place here, too. That’s why I started working with horses and why I am also looking into putting sheep in the vineyard next winter. It is completely relevant with the biodynamic philosophy, in which you consider your farm as a living organism.”

Projects inspecting the worth of grazing sheep in vineyards – generally known as vitipastoralisme in French – have surfaced in the previous few years. The findings prompted many areas to encourage farmers to take up the follow.

Sheep are already very current in vineyards belonging to Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, an appellation masking 3,200 hectares: in 2020, 37 estates used sheep throughout greater than 400 hectares.

Elsewhere, a three-year research project by the Dordogne’s chamber of agriculture concluded that, for sheep farmers, this technique gives entry to a free supply of meals from November to March.

Isabelle Pangault, owner of L’Affût vineyard
Isabelle Pangault, proprietor of L’Affût winery: ‘It became quite obvious, when I looked at one plot, that I wanted to use horses.’ Photograph: Pascal Montagne/The Guardian

It discovered advantages for winegrowers, too: through the use of sheep as an alternative choice to chemical herbicides, soil and water high quality improves, and the follow encourages the progress of nitrogen-fixing vegetation, akin to clover.

Some areas have already sought to foster partnerships between winery homeowners and farmers, together with in Costières de Nîmes. Guy Marjollet, deputy director of the Gard’s chamber of agriculture, says there was a sheep farming revival in the Costières space round 2010. “At that time, grazing in the vines was marginal – except that we found it interesting as an alternative to herbicides in catchment areas for drinking water,” he says.

The chamber created an interactive map, Qui Veut Mon Herbe? (Who needs my grass?), to permit winegrowers, amongst others, to attach with sheep farmers. The map is being expanded to go from masking about 15,000 hectares to about 50,000.

The IFCE and IFV are engaged on a observe-on mission to Equivigne, aiming to raised combine horses in viticulture.

Horse walks from a horsebox into the vineyard
Jean-Pierre Dupont leads one of his horses into the winery. Photograph: Pascal Montagne/The Guardian

It is an instance of a push to professionalise the working horse sector nationally. L’École Nationale du Cheval Vigneron, a faculty for horses in viticulture, was created in 2019 to coach horses, winegrowers and repair suppliers, whereas the society for working horses has created a certificates for horses in viticulture. An affiliation designed to deliver collectively these in the working horse business, together with from viticulture, was created in 2020.

Ultimately, incorporating animals in winegrowing may stem from a quite simple attraction. “[Winegrowing] is a difficult job and you need some pleasure in the way you do it, says Pangault. “And it’s always a real pleasure to see horses working in the field.”

Sign up for the Animals farmed month-to-month replace to get a roundup of the greatest farming and meals tales throughout the world and sustain with our investigations. You can ship us your tales and ideas at [email protected]

TravelGuides – Draught wines: French vineyards rediscover the power of horses | Animals