Thursday, 29 May 2014

Horsepower in the Vineyard


 The other day we visited Domaine de Clos Roussely, the organic vineyard run by Vincent Roussely above the small village of Angé on the Cher. To our delight there was a pair of draft horses working amongst the vines. They were ploughing between the rows to rip up grass and wildflowers which were getting really rank. 
The vines are 3 weeks in advance of normal due to the unusually mild spring. The advantage of using the horses to weed rather than a tractor is that the horses don't damage the tender growth on the vines. They also cope better when the lush weed growth tangles up the plough.

 Jean Pierre and Urbani, a 4 year old Belgian, come striding down the slope.

Vincent never tires of reminding people to look around. He points out that the valley is rich, there are crops, woods, fields with animals, vineyards  He sees it as one of his responsibilities to show visitors the biodiversity, maintaining it and valuing it, and to encourage people to take the time to admire this extraordinary natural wealth.
 

He also sees his mission as improving the reputation of Touraine wines. He reminds us that it isn't that long ago when they were just considered table wines, but now they are good quality. He's just won the new Touraine Chenonceaux classification for this parcel of sauvignon blanc, which he hopes will help when competing against major appellations with a long and well known history.
This is what the vineyard looks like once the horses have finished. The vegetation is controlled mechanically rather than sprayed with herbicide. Biodiversity benefits, and therefore the grapes benefit. The ploughmen and their horses will visit the vineyard several times during the season.
 Urbani poses for a portrait. He is a thoroughly aimiable beast.
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French Expression: Rouler à toute allure = flat strap/full pelt.

6 comments:

  1. Love his hat... He looks like he is even smiling!! Happy in his work.

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  2. I think the little hats are wonderful. Presumably to keep the flies out of their eyes. They look really solid animals - and you don't find tractors reproducing themselves, either! P.

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  3. How much nicer to be out in the fresh air working with a horse than to be sitting on a tractor with the stinky exhaust fumes and I think the horses don't compact the soil as badly as a tractor would.

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  4. well, isn't that a pretty hat. I agree. but a horse works all day and everyone gets excited about the frippery. poor poor horse.

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  5. When I was first in France a friend's cousin - a very elderly gentleman - was still working his wines with a horse, covering the roots with soil before the winter, opening them up again in the spring....using a plough specially designed for work in the wines....I'm glad to see that they are coming back into use...Olivier at Martigne Briand in the Maine et Loire also uses horses and teaches others the skills.
    The horses are lucky that they are working these days, when they are generally well looked after...the 'good old days' were not so good for them.

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  6. Pearl: I don't think the horse is working any harder than the man in this case...

    Fly: I thought they might be specially adapted ploughs. They said something that made me wonder, and they gave it a name, but I can't remember what it was.

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