July 2017 - Summertime. After a day in sun, the vignerons retire from the vine rows, leaving behind a vast expanse of nature at rest. The vineyard has an air of calm about it. And yet, one need only take a moment to pause and observe to realize all is not as it seems. For hidden beneath this ocean of green chlorophyll is an entire little world, bustling with activity.
Pay close attention, and you might make a curious acquaintance or two here under the canopy. Perhaps you’ll come across a Carabus auratus, or a golden ground beetle – a sturdy little insect with a particular penchant for snails. You could happen upon a jumping spider, always on the lookout for grape leafhoppers (Empoasca vitis), of which they are formidable predators. On a leaf above, you might witness the birth of a ladybug, or find a harvestman (Opiliones) feasting on grape worms.
The vineyard shelters a surprising microcosm, whose fragile equilibrium requires care. And the farming practices at Château Palmer allow us to recognize just how rich and varied this vineyard biodiversity can truly be. Thanks to the presence of a multitude of plant life which we maintain and reinforce, for example by planting trees and hedges, every day we discover new insects in the plots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.
Preserving these natural balances within our ecosystem is at the heart of any environmentally respectful form of agriculture. Vineyard pests have natural predators which we call “auxiliaries” – insects that protect the vines thanks to their appetite for other troublesome insects. Alternatively, some types of insects influence the vines in indirect ways. Rather than contribute directly to the vines' protection, they enrich the overall ecosystem that nurtures the vineyard as a whole. Such is the case of wild bees, for example, which enable other plants to reproduce around the vines, thus maintaining habitat for a large number of insects. Here, the bee population in our vineyards has increased considerably in recent years.
Today, safeguarding this great wealth of life is essential to fostering the growth of sustainable, responsible agriculture. Though barely visible at first glance, this miniature world plays an outsized role in our environment, where every species is indispensable in their own way. One cannot exist without the other. But when we protect one, we protect them all.