Terroire: The soil of our vineyard is highly calcareous (Alkaline) meaning composed of chalk. Our soils are thin and dry. They resemble a large part of the soil of deserts, which may prove very fertile when sufficient moisture for crops is applied. It is important to point out that our terroire is not just a geographical area, it is also our cultural and emotional inheritance.
Climate: The climate is Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. There is no real thermal dormant season for plants, although plant growth can be checked briefly by abnormal cold in winter (patches of ground frost may occur in inland locals), and summer heat and aridity may cause vegetation to wilt. In fact summer irrigation is a necessity to prevent vines from wilting and dying.
The grapes that were chosen are those with long growing seasons, but have thick skins to protect the fruit. Strong tannin and colour are products of the grape skin.
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Agricultural techniques used:
Currently the estate is managed according to rigorous integrated pest management programme, which will ultimately be replaced with a full organic pest management programme.
First of all, all uses of herbicides have been eliminated in the vineyard, where all weeds are either removed by mechanical means in between rows or removed by hand near the trunk of the vine.
Secondly, insecticides used have been reduced to organic insecticides mainly Diatomaceous earth which kills harmful insects by contact while preserving the beneficial ones (like the ladybird beetle) which have a hard exo-skeleton.
Finally, we use a combination of organic and systematic fungicides. For the first few months of vine growth we apply a scheme of systematic fungicides to give the vine the necessary protection for growing healthy shoots. When the vine forms the first fruit, the spray programme is changed to an organic one consisting of organic pesticides mainly wet table sulphur and copper II sulphate.
Apart from the rehabilitation of rubble walls, soil management in the vineyard is of utmost importance. The point is that most of the land in the Gharb, San Lawrenz area is considered as marginal land, or better land which is highly susceptible to soil erosion. So soil conservation and the usage of organic fertiliser is highly important. In the vineyard we have adopted minimum tillage farming (ploughing). Here in the wet months following harvest we leave a cover crop of grass to protect the soil from erosion. In March when the rains stop and the vines begin to wake up from their winter slumber, the grass is mulched and ploughed in the soil were it acts as organic matter. This practice contrasts greatly with the continuous ploughing used by local farmers which deteriorate the soil.
In addition to this, vines are helped yearly with measured additions of fertiliser. Here the type of fertiliser used is an alga extract which is fully organic. Given the high cost of this fertiliser, one may think that it is not viable. However, the long term benefits to the soil per se, to the soil micro flora and also to the water table is highly valuable.