Friday, April 20, 2007

Confusion sexuelle

Sorry this post isn’t half as interesting as the title suggests! In fact it is about moths, or more precisely two particular genera of moth Cochylis and Eudemis.They might look innocent enough, but in late summer they have a regrettable fondness for laying their eggs in ripening bunches of grapes. When these eggs hatch the young larvae particularly enjoy feeding on sweet grapes. The problem isn’t the quantity of grapes that these caterpillars consume, but rather the fact that nibbled grapes are an open invitation to grey rot. If the climatic conditions are right (should that be wrong?) a damaged grape will become infected, and rot can then quickly spread to destroy the whole bunch. Untreated, in a bad year, these caterpillars can destroy a sizeable percentage of the crop. The normal solution is to spray the grapes with a chemical insecticide, but of course this blog is about the organic alternative, which is called confusion sexuelle...

I spent one morning last week spreading pheromones. In Morey this is a communal effort since a good percentage of the vineyards are protected by confusion sexuelle and indeed the method needs to be applied to a large surface area in order to be effective. At the start of each season about 500 of the diffusers pictured left are placed per hectare of vines. The small blisters are filled with synthesised female moth pheromones (one blister per species) which diffuse into the air throughout the year. The air becomes so saturated with female pheromones that come mating season the poor male moths (who navigate by smell) get all confused and unable to locate a mate. Of course no mating means no eggs, which means no caterpillars, which means no damage, which means no rot, which means good wine!

PS. Don’t feel too bad for the moths – I’m sure they just go mate in someone else’s vineyard.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Early Spring

The weather in Burgundy has been glorious for the past few weeks. So far April has been 3ºC above average and devoid of rainfall. As a result the vines have burst into life three weeks earlier than normal which should mean an early harvest if they aren’t checked by frost. Interestingly the consensus of local traditional wisdom (based on the lunar cycle and flowering dates of various plants) forecasts a late harvest (in October) and a frost on the 2nd of May. Thought I’d put that in writing now just in case!

The photo shows an apple tree I planted last year in full flower on the 14th of April.


I’ve just finished the first ploughing of 2007. As the first photo below shows I leave a grassy strip between each row and only turn the soil directly under the vines. Leaving grass is uncommon in Burgundy, but I tried this in one vineyard last year and liked the results. This year all my vines are ploughed this way.
The second photo shows the plough in action. The two discs define the edge of the grassy band (not yet very grassy in this vineyard!) while two blades slice through the soil cutting weed roots at a depth of about 5cm. Here I’ve raised one of the blades for the sake of the photo. Normally the blade is held solidly in the position shown, but just in front of each blade, and above soil level, is a sensing rod with a large mechanical advantage over the blade. When the sensor is lightly pushed back by a vine the blade follows and so narrowly avoids decapitating the vine. The whole system works surprisingly well and ploughs very close to each vine with a low risk of damage.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


It’s been a bitterly cold day so I took a break from pruning to prepare a shipment of my 2004 Pinot Noir, which is leaving for the UK next week. It’s only about 500 bottles, but each bottle needs washed (they’ve been in the cellar for a year), labelled, capsuled, hand numbered (what was I thinking!?) and then packed into boxes.

At least the labelling goes quickly thanks to machine pictured below.