We are currently using sustainable farming methods in all of our 200 hectares of vineyards.
In April 2011, we formally applied for organic certification of the entire Avignonesi estate. This started a mandatory 3-year certification period during which we must observe all the principles of organic viticulture. The acquisition of additional vineyards in Montepulciano in 2011 and 2012 means we will be granted full certification in 2016.
However, we have decided to go one step further and apply a biodynamic approach to our vineyards. This holistic and regenerative farming system focuses on the health of the soil, the integration of local flora and fauna, and biodiversity.
As Virginie Saverys confirms:
"I think the first concern of any producer should be that their product is as healthy as it can be. The application of biodynamic methods allows me to follow through on that.When you see vineyard workers wearing protective suits and masks to apply conventional treatments to the vines, you cannot help but wonder: how will these seemingly dangerous treatments affect the vines, and ultimately, the grapes and wines produced? I want to produce healthier wines for healthier people, but I also want to contribute to a healthier land and healthier environment for future generations.
Biodynamic methods guarantee our customers not just healthier wines, but more interesting, complex and unique wines from Avignonesi in the future."
In the vineyards
As with organic farming, biodynamics uses no inorganic fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides. We seek to protect the vine through strengthening its natural defence system and making its growing habitat as healthy and nourishing as possible. We produce our own natural fertilisers by growing green manure in the rows between the vines, including plants like mustard, vetch, rocket, field beans, grasses etc. Once this crop is grown we mulch it into the soil. The mulch mineralises the soil with substances such as potassium, sulphur and nitrogen. The network of roots loosens the soil, aerating it, making it looser and protecting it against erosion. This biodiversity of flora encourages the proliferation of a wide ranger of insects and microorganisms that help the vines to thrive.
We try to schedule our work in the vineyards in accordance with the biodynamic calendar as much as possible to ensure that the vines are in tune with the natural rhythm of their environment. We start after the harvest in autumn by ploughing the soil to loosen it. We then apply a biodynamic preparation called 500P. This is cow manure that has matured in cow horns buried in the ground over winter. We apply this up to four times a year in the afternoons when the soil is said to be ‘exhaling’.
The other biodynamic preparation we use is 501. This is horn silica consisting of finely ground quartz. It is also buried in cow horns but during the summer, so it can absorb heat and sunlight. It is then stored in a bright place and finally mixed with water and sprayed onto the vine leaves. We do this before 9 o’clock in the mornings when the earth is said to 'inhale'.
Following a biodynamic calendar means that there is always something to do in the vineyards. There is a lot more manual work involved in biodynamic viticulture, but the results are already tangible. In the vineyards that have been under biodynamic management for even only one year, the soil smells better, has a livelier colour and is looser.
We are confident that our decision to embrace sustainable farming will help us produce even greater wines, wines that have both the distinctive Avignonesi character and the rich personality of our terroir.