The abundant snow covering our estates, a few weeks ago, was a gorgeous view. It was also an important water supply for the cover crops recently planted within the vineyards rows. In wintertime, while the vines rest, other plants flourish: legumes, clovers, cruciferous plants that enrich the soil and increase the biodiversity in the farms.
Each plant brings in something different, all of them help us to improve the physical and biological structure of the soil where Chakana wines grow, without the need to use agrochemicals.
The vine, in conventional viticulture, is a monoculture that leaves no room for other herbs or plants. On the contrary, with organic and biodynamic methods, during autumn and winter, we plant vicia, a combination of clovers, cruciferous plants – such as rapeseed and mustard, which have important effects on nematodes that can be harmful to the vine – as well as rye and oat. Our vineyard lives and develops with harmony and with more biodiversity despite this cold season.
Planting cover crops and green manures is just one of the activities of these weeks. In autumn we make up the well-known biodynamic preparations, a very important moment in this agricultural method.
One of the preparations, named Preparation 500, is perhaps the most iconic image of biodynamics: it’s done with cows horns stuffed with manure and buried next to the vineyard. A few weeks ago we put a bunch of horns in a dig in the ground to finalize the preparation, we will take them out at the end of September and then spread them in the vineyard.
The goal is to increase the microbiological activity of the vineyard, increase the presence of bacteria and enzymes, aiming for more life itself in the soil to favor the complexity and the overall balance of the environment. With these preparations we enrich the soil, boosting its capacity to convey water and nutrients to the plant’s roots. Moreover, we help the vine to defend itself against diseases.
We also use other biodynamic preparations to enrich the compost that will fertilize our vineyard. During many weeks we prepare the compost base – a mixture of the medicinal plant alfalfa (fresh because it contains high amounts of nitrogen, and dried, for its high carbon content), cow manure and all the remains of grapes processing (seeds, skins, stems..). Multiple layers are formed next to the vineyard, then we periodically control humidity and temperature of the fermenting mass, while we incorporate oxygen turning it around in order to facilitate the process. To this compost base, at the beginning of the season, we add biodynamic preparations based on chamomile, dandelion, oak bark, nettle, yarrow and a liquid solution of valerian leaves.
These six preparations lead and facilitate the processes of transformation within the compost, interacting with various elements such as silica and potassium (dandelion), calcium (oak bark) or nitrogen (chamomile).
Pruning following the sap
A further aspect in which we are working on is the pruning of the vine. This year, for the first time, we decided to apply a new method, the Simonit&Sirch method (of which we will talk more in details in a new article). It’s a pruning method almost unknown in Argentina, which essentially tries to strengthen the plant without using cuts on old wood, minimizing human intervention and trying to respect the natural sap flow.
Again, our goal is to recover a more balanced viticulture, more respectful of the nature of the vine. This method also reduces the incidence of diseases (fungi) that enter the plant through cuts, and helps to obtain longer-living plants, with better budding, better general health and consequently with higher quality grapes.
During wintertime, we prepare the harvest that will come the following spring, in Chakana we’re also working for the long-term future.