December – What if we took the time to see our surroundings, to look, to understand, to contemplate? Each living thing grows in an environment which corresponds to it, shelters it, nourishes it and makes it grow. One of the fundamental principals of biodynamics is to view each element of life as part of an interconnected whole. These elements form an environment which is plural, virtuous and autonomous. Seen in this light, a grapevine does not exist on its own. Rather, we should consider it as part of an ensemble: the soil, the water, the plants, the animals, the insects… the cosmos.
As one strolls though the vineyards, one the first elements that we notice is the ocean – an ocean not of salt water, but of chlorophyll. The green of vine leaves, slowly changing colours with the seasons and stretching to the horizon, as far as the eye can see. Yet the richness of an environment lies in its complexity. An observation which inspired a desire at Château Palmer to enhance the estate with relief and forms, to strengthen its identity. And so we launched a plantation project of new trees and hedges, including native and heritage varieties. In selecting the plants, we had to take into consideration their effect on both the balance between pests and predators and the structure of the landscape.
Enlisting the aid of an entomologist – a scientist specialised in insects – we undertook a study of the minuscule life inside our vine parcels. The harmony of a vineyard depends on the complex equilibriums that exist between species, notably between pests (harmful to the vines) and predators (which feed on pests). The objective was therefore to plant trees and hedges that would be beneficial to the predators' habitat and their ability to feed and reproduce, and in so doing, protect the grapevines. We then conducted a study with France’s league for the protection of birds (LPO), which provided us precious insights into these animals and their benefits for the vineyard. In fact, bats are also ideal allies, notably against the grape caterpillars that spread the dreaded grey mould. By planting trees in the parcels, such as the fruit trees planted in our Cassena parcels, we provide bats with reference points and shelter, thus allowing them to adopt the vineyard as a hunting ground.
This diversity of flora and fauna nourishes the estate and enriches it. It makes the vineyard environment more balanced and interdependent. Resilient. More than 2500 trees and hedges later, we continue this reorganisation of land and space. This year, around twenty additional trees will be planted in the parcels. The vines are not alone; they communicate, exchange and interact with other species. The vineyard has been reimagined. It is becoming a garden, great and multiform.