Today I would like to highlight Arthur Mayard, my nephew who takes care of the management of the vines and the cellar in our family estate, the Vignobles Mayard.
In this interview, Arthur reviews the evolution of our estate from an agronomic point of view towards sustainable agriculture and then towards organic agriculture which became official in 2017 with the beginning of our conversion which is coming to an end today.
The next bottles of the 2020 vintage will be marketed in organic agriculture with the AB logo.
It is a journey that has really been made in time. It is something that was initiated by Françoise, Béatrice and Didier some twenty years ago. So it has been a long transition, with the stop of weed killers, the re-cultivation of the soil by works.
And now we are coming to a new project that goes beyond Bio and is oriented towards a trend of agroecology.
This consists of having plant cover in our vineyards and a stratum of hedges and trees, potentially in the vines.
There were different phases during the organic conversion, with a re-cultivation and mechanical tillage with towed tools.
Today, half of our family estate is worked through the plant cover.
A technique that consists of sequestering carbon in the soil, by growing a plant cover that will capture nitrogen from the air and carbon from the air to reintegrate it into the soil.
Objective of the Vignobles Mayard: to be in a project of carbon sequestration on the whole estate with the aim in the long term to be almost neutral, even positive on our practices.
Our covers represent the totality of the rows in our vineyards. It is a mixture composed of large families of grasses, fabaceae and some cruciferous plants.
Each one has a role of soil decompaction, of capture of atmospheric nitrogen through the root symbioses of the nodules of the fabaceae.
The objective is to bring life back into our soils, which is the main component of organic matter in our soils and responsible for the fertility of our vines and the quality of our grapes.
“The more life there is, the healthier the vines will be, with as few treatments as possible. By maximizing the life in our soils and in our vines, we act on the quality of our wines globally”. Arthur Mayard
It’s a long process that is done little by little. Today we have about twenty hectares under plant cover. This leads to new problems that we don’t know about. We are relearning a trade and a whole host of practices. It’s something we really care about at Vignobles Mayard.
Marceau Bourdarias, an expert in vine physiology, came to our estate two years ago to train the entire Vignobles Mayard team in order to optimize our pruning.
Gentle pruning allows us to maximize the vine’s reserve of energy in its woods. This allows us to have at bud-break the following year, a healthier, more vigorous vine, more able to maintain an optimal flowering and to avoid having coulure phenomena, which are effects of flower abortion, especially on the Grenache in Châteauneuf du Pape which is the main grape variety of the appellation.
So the goal is to stabilize the yields, to extend the longevity of the vine which represents for us the biggest stake. To make sure we have vines that last more than 100 years.
We try to implement all possible practices. The objective is to reduce wood diseases by this gentle pruning, to make sure that the soil activity will eventually return to a level that corresponds to self-fertility and thus limit our inputs, including organic fertilizers.
The aim of these plant coverings, hedges and trees nearby is to recreate an ecosystem and to be able to do our own internal manuring; to be self-fertile in our vines so that they become resilient.
Paradigm shift in agronomy at Vignobles Mayard for a sustainable and resilient agriculture.
Today, our vines in France and on the estate are mainly derived from clonal selections. That is to say that these are selections of vines that are reproduced identically to avoid certain risks of disease and to favour clones that are productive and of high quality.
But in 2021, this ideology is somewhat exhausted because we find ourselves in viticulture on a huge intensive agriculture of vines with the same individuals, with no outside life and with little soil life; this poses a big problem and leaves the field free for diseases.
Our job as winegrowers is to promote diversity. The Mayard family has therefore launched a program with Lilian Bérillon Nurseries to make a massal selection of our old vines. That is to say, instead of reproducing a single individual vine plant, they come to select about forty that are over 100 years old today. So these individuals have all the potential to be vigorous, qualitative and healthy. And we are going to try to multiply them.
By selecting 40 vines to be cloned instead of just one, we multiply by 40 the diversity of individuals within a plot of land.
We’ve embarked on a work of restructuring our vineyard, that is to say, we’re renewing plots that were too old, too unproductive, and which were missing.
After the 2019 harvest, we pulled up two hectares of vines. We did a resting time of the soil with a plant cover in order to restimulate the life of the soil, recreate dynamics at the level of rooting, decompacting etc. and this year we have just replanted them.
We are happy to announce that we will have 1 hectare of Châteauneuf du pape blanc to market in the coming years, and 1 hectare in red.
So in addition to these massal selections which consist in cloning several individuals of a grape variety, we are also choosing to plant several grape varieties per plot to try to maximize this biodiversity.
So in plantation, we find ourselves with 5 white grape varieties which are white and grey grenache, clairette, pink clairette and roussanne. And cinsault and grenache for the reds.
That makes already 7 individuals on which one sows a multi-species plant cover, about 7 different species. And this terraced plot is lucky because it is all surrounded by woods. So already at the level of the construction of the vine, it is a whole ecosystem. And we multiply life by exponential figures that allow us to have, in the long run, a resilient and self-fertile vine.
We can see the climate change every year, we can see the harvest dates moving forward, we can see the sugars exploding, thus giving more and more important alcoholic potentials, acidities degrading… The whole purpose of the estate and of our current agriculture is to regain balance, to produce wines as qualitative if not more so than those we make today.
Other points that are addressed in this interview that I invite you to watch in its entirety :
- Role of the sheep in our vineyards (11:29)
- The ploughing with a horse during March of one of our old tightly planted plots, in order not to compact our soils and to favour a better grassing with our plant cover. (13:53)
- Update on the quality of the 2020 vintage and the work that is done in the cellar. (15:55)
- Planning of past and future work at Vignobles Mayard in the coming weeks and months. (19:14)