For the first time ever, we welcomed Isabelle Claudel and her small shire horse Ulysse to our Paradise Rescued vineyards in Cardan, Bordeaux. It was a working visit with a very specific goal, although plenty of interested onlookers and cameras were at hand to record the event. The clock rolled back a good number of decades……

Ulysse at the north end of the Paradise Rescued block in Cardan Bordeaux . Ready for the next downhill run.

Ulysse at the north end of the Paradise Rescued Merlot block in Cardan Bordeaux taking a quick break before his next downhill plough run.

At the end of every agricultural / viticultural season, there is a need to give the soil an opportunity to rejuvenate itself. Winter time is most commonly the best time for this to occur using the colder weather to break down organic matter in the earth. At the same time, the soil is opened up again following compaction in the growing season, providing aeration and drainage during the inactive period. Weeds are buried and nutrients returned to the surface. Often in the vineyard the base of each vine is earthed over, protecting the graft from frost damage during the cold period.

Regular readers to our blog will well understand our strategy by now. Our three point strategy has remained unchanged over the life of our company and project. Point number one is Good Fruit! It all starts there and the rest follows…

Opening that into a more specific logical and tactical goal, this means that in order to produce good fruit, we need a healthy vineyard with healthy vines. And naturally, the health of the soil is therefore paramount to achieve that result.

The larger part of our densely planted Hourcat Centre Merlot block was re-planted with young Merlot in summer 2014 and now required a very precise ploughing before winter. Horse drawn ploughing is a good way of achieving very precise soil management and avoids the risk of damage to the young plants. And by using a horse to pull the plough rather than a tractor, we minimise soil compaction, allowing better drainage and air circulation. This not only leads to healthier vines but also provides better microbial activity, which in turn gives a better natural defence against disease in the vineyard.

The Merlot harvest was stunning in 2015. Time to go to the next level!

The Merlot harvest and fruit was stunning in 2015. Time to go to the next level!

Horse drawn ploughing is not common in the vineyards of Bordeaux. Whereas in Burgundy, where vineyard ownership and parcels are much smaller and organic / biodynamic vine management techniques are increasingly used, horses have made a big come-back. In other locations where tractor access is significantly restricted, horsepower is returning.

In our Cabernet Franc Hourcat Sud block where the row spacing is much wider, we have continued with the conventional tractor approach. At least for the moment, that is! Watch this blog space for further developments there too.

The Paradise Rescued values of “Quality and Excellence” and “Continual Improvement and Innovation” move forward.

Horsepower – nice pictures, but NOT a media stunt!