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Mas d’Intras, France – Denis Robert and Sébastien Pradal

April 15, 2012

Denis and Sébastien

From Denis:

Why do you do what you do? Passion, and also because my parents worked hard and with their hearts to prepare a nice wine estate for their children.

How do you do it? As good as I can for the health of my clients and for the environment. We want our work to be more in line with nature and with the health of our planet. A conversion to organic wine making demands reflection, for we need to be sure that the environment and the wine consumer benefit from the accomplished changes.

Since the sixties a lot of vineyards are 100% chemically weeded. The “weeds” are destroyed with herbicides. Unfortunately this is still a major practice in France.

In the Autumn of 1998 we wished to counter erosion and take the first step in the direction of a growing respect of the environment. We started to grow grass in the middle of the vine rows. In 2005 we refined our method and now every second row is grass grown and every second row is ploughed so that rainwater better penetrates in the soil.

For many years we have tried to spray in a responsible way, a way that would harm the environment as little as possible. In organic viticulture one may only spray with sulfur and copper. Copper is a heavy metal that fixes in the soil, which isn’t really that ecological – all things considered.

In the Spring of 2007, we invested in a sophisticated spraying system. It allows us to spray very precisely and with small quantities through the whole viticultural season. Equipped with this high-performance machine, we were able to reduce the quantity of sulfur and copper used. We felt ready to officially start our conversion to organic viticulture on September 1st, 2009.

We also use natural corks. These are expensive but respect the philosophy of wine and also support the essential maintenance of the Portuguese woods. Moreover, natural corks avoid the pollution caused by plastic corks. The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) made a plea to vintners in 2002 and 2006, asking them to use natural corks. Through the current massive use of plastic corks, the production zones of natural cork are disappearing and with them their biodiversity and employment.

What obstacles have you overcome? To change thinking and stop using chemicals (as I learned at the wine school).

Are you happy with your work? Oh yes, but I’m not happy with the office work: I dislike computers, but they are helpful when they work correctly, and I can do so much with them.

Is it worth the effort? Yes, of course, when it’s done with conviction. And there are lots of positive aspects to the effort – like saving energy, pleasure at work, nice environment of work and living (for the family and children, too), and the wonderful interaction with the clients (who are curious or already well informed).

Having a responsible behavior towards the environment is a matter of observation, reflection and conscience. We should not hesitate to change our habits where we can. Financially, it is impossible to change everything at once, so we move forward by taking baby steps in the right direction.

European Goldfinches



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