Since the property was purchased in 2012, the new team’s watchword has been RESPECT: respect for the soils, respect for the vines and their environment …and for those who work in them.
An immediate stop to chemical herbicide use
The first decision to be made was to put an immediate stop to chemical herbicides. This was followed up with the purchase of two new FENDT tractors and an under-the-row plough, so as to reintroduce natural growth in the soils. This traditional soil management practice has enabled the vine roots to grow deeper into the subsoil and thus cope better with drought or excess moisture.
An ambitious replanting programme
Plots with too many missing vines have been restructured: 5 hectares (12 acres) were pulled up and replanted between 2013 and 2015.
In red varieties, the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon has been increased at the expense of Merlot, and the Petit Verdot and Malbec varieties have been added to the overall grape composition. As for the whites, Sauvignon has been favoured, and especially the Sauvignon Gris variety, which brings enhanced mineral, blackcurrant and grapefruit aromas.
Following soil studies and analyses, rootstocks and grape varieties have been matched to the specific character of each plot. New vine plants have been sourced from the DIEUXYSSIES nursery in SAINT PIERRE d’AURILLAC, 20km from Château de l’Hospital.
In parallel with this work, 6,000 vines have been inter-planted over the last 4 years, in order to replace the missing vines of each plot. This enables us to maintain the desired crop yields per hectare and thereby achieve optimal production costs, at the same time as preserving the quality of the grapes.
A total stop to chemical spray treatments
The use of chemical sprays (insecticides, pesticides and fungicides) was brought to a definitive stop at L’Hospital in 2013, producing convincing results in 2014. We then applied to join ECOCERT with the aim of acquiring organic status for the vines in 2015.
As a consequence of this, we sought higher-performing spraying and dusting equipment and invested in machines made by the HERVE company, which are perfectly geared to precision work in the vines.
Investment in material and personnel, backed up by a partnership with GETADE, now enables us to intervene swiftly in the whole of the vineyard. This is a key factor in successful organic growing.
Our sprays are composed of sulphur and copper, along with volcanic rock and plant essences.
Our aim is to reduce to below 2kg per hectare the use of copper per year. (The official organic-growing body allows for up to 6kg per hectare).
Observing the lunar calendar and in keeping with time-honoured traditional practices, we don’t work on the vines on lunar node days or during supermoons or micromoons. Daily monitoring of the vines enables treatments to be adapted to the precise weather of the moment -a very different approach to that of conventional systemic, chemical spraying.
No more mineral or chemical fertilisers either. We only use organic matter. 2016 will be the year of green fertiliser seeding, involving the purchase of a seed drill and spreader.
A renovated cellar
The cellar has also been given a face-lift with the building of a new vat room containing tronco-pyramidal concrete vats, which will enhance the extraction of colour and tannins in the red varieties. Air conditioning and a new temperature control system for the vats have also been installed. To complete this new equipment, steam disinfection systems for the barrels have been added. The barrels are crafted according to the highest coopering standards and with the best French oak and are selected from the best cooperages.
Coming up soon…. a new harvest reception area.