PHILOSOPHY AND IMPLEMENTATION OF A NEW FORM OF RESPONSIBLE
Manifesto: from the Latin manifestus, meaning a written, public declaration which lays out an action plan or stance. As R. Dion pointed out, among the elements constituting the Mediterranean diet trilogy, “the vine is the most dependent on human decisions.” 1 It therefore holds a special place, not only due to its nature, but also its technology: the vine and wine are complex elements in which human intervention and choices play a significant role. Finally, winegrowing is particularly linked to cultural and business aspects 2, and these choices are also dependent on viticulture and winemaking constraints. However, given the product's complexity, these constraints leave greater room for maneuver than in the cultivation of grains and olive trees. It is this set of constraints, their interactions and impacts on our working methods that I would like to outline here.
We hear many terms used to describe viticultural approaches, including conventional, organic, biodynamic, integrated, agroforestry, agro-ecology, regenerative, permaculture and agro-pastoralism. I believe that this abundance of designations leads to a blurring of our perceptions in the maelstrom of “new ecology” and “greenwashing”, rather than providing clear insight on the direction we wish to take to establish reasonable and sustainable production methods aimed not at creating a pleasant ideal but a reality reflected in facts and measurable, sustainable results.
What does this entail? It requires envisioning and implementing a truly modern form of viticulture by making use of all the available resources to achieve socially and
environmentally responsible production methods. My approach is both pragmatic and scientific. My tools include experimentation, comparison and observation. We must also constantly remind ourselves that we are the guardians and revellers of an exceptional terroir that will become increasingly renowned if and only if we are able to preserve and develop the essence of our great wines.
We have recently witnessed a flourishing of statements expressing producers' “eco-friendly” commitments, as well as new associations seemingly promoting brand-new production methods, and staggering quality performance claims, all of which testify to the world's chosen.
1 R. Dion, History of vines and wine in France, from the origins to the 19th century, Paris, 1959
2 Amouretti Marie-Claire. Ancient viticulture: constraints and technical choices. In: Revue des Études Anciennes. Volume 90,
1988, n°1-2. pp. 5-17
response to the growing environmental concerns over “global warming”. This is cause for celebration. It is easy to let ourselves be carried along by the most popular trend, the current fashion of becoming “greener than green”. However, we would do well to remember that “the trend carrying these ideas gives happiness to those who live on hot air and stock phrases. The plowmen, with their feet firmly on the ground, construct a different reality […]. The arguments are founded more on the utterance than the wording, on the manner of speaking rather than what is said […]. Speaking well is an art that engenders conviction, whereas
austere reason does not win people over.” 3 In light of all these trends, we must distinguish those that exist for communication purposes, which are sincere yet empty commitments, from those aimed at seeking a truly effective
reality. It is also important to bear in mind that we are farmers cultivating an environment and that Mother Nature does not necessarily have our best interests at heart. The “philosophy of the terroir” could provide an opportunity to rethink the relationship between humans and nature.
Proponents of biodynamic viticulture, who have apparently taken this concept the farthest, recognize the “primacy of nature” by seeking to “activate life processes” without claiming to control them, and supporting the natural processes they trust. By contrast, conventional viticulture emphasizes the “primacy of man”, presenting humans as stronger than nature and seeking to master it. All the arguments used to demonstrate the originality or rather the primacy of the biodynamic vision systematically involve pitting it against all other approaches. Human folly reduces everything to a clear-cut choice: friend or enemy, black or white, all or nothing. This even leads to putting the obscurantism of Greek thought in opposition with the modern vision of the Enlightenment. And yet, Greek thinkers clearly described the human capacity for understanding the laws of nature, balanced with an awareness that their complex nature made it impossible to control them, making this pursuit entirely futile! The concept of the primacy of nature in the authentic expression of the terroir would therefore amount to abandoning the very definition of Terroir. 4
After garnering much praise, the time has come to do away with processes requiring the use of certain solutions for purely ideological reasons imposed by gurus and the hurdles introduced by certification standards. 5 Such processes simply do not allow winegrowers to adapt to the specific conditions of their place and time. This is quite ironic given the emphasis on balance and local ecosystems. Limiting and imposing the use of certain practices, such as strict organic measures and, worse still, biodynamic viticulture 6 , which is even more dogmatic 7 , leads to failures that are sometimes devastating. Such failures often compromise the company's economic performance and thus its primary social responsibility: that of
supporting and contributing to the livelihood of a family of winegrowers and their employees,
3 Boris Cyrulnik “The Plowman and the Wind Eaters” EAN: 9782415001360 272 pages ODILE JACOB (03/16/2022)
who are all an integral part of the ecosystem (financial groups with diversified economic resources could possibly be excluded from this necessary ambition).
It is also time to bid farewell to the “good old days” ideology, which tells nostalgic and weak minds that progress is merely a source of chaos. I have no problem with someone using a horse or ox to work all their plots or, better yet, to do it by hand, if they have no more than an acre of vines, or if the estate's economic means allow for this madness. But please stop thinking that this will necessarily be better than other practices. The time has also come to say goodbye to “conventional” viticulture, a most absurd term, which leads to the reckless use of unwelcome input products (plant protection products, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers) in the name of performance and easier working methods. Given their globalized manufacturing characteristics, their intensive use leads to multiple and uncontrollable consequences in the long-term by setting off chain reactions that are sometimes capable of irreversibly destroying the balance of the ecosystem, not only locally
but also globally. It would be better to replace “conventional agriculture” with the more accurate term “intensive agriculture”. 8 But could the irrational “conventional” agriculture approach be pitted against the “integrated” approach 9 , which uses the same methods but more reasonably? Is that impossible? Integrated viticulture does exist, yet the unambitious “certifications” have unfortunately tarnished its image, which is quite a shame. “High Environmental Value” (HEV) 10 certification has been widely criticized, and rightly so, for its lack of ambition. However, if this approach is followed seriously, not simply in response to pressure from the market or interprofessional organizations, I believe it can bring about real
progress. It offers an excellent step towards increased awareness of the value of an overall environmental approach, which can then potentially be taken to the next level. When all of the criteria are taken into account, it includes fundamental themes (managing energy, waste and the natural environment, training, work safety, etc.) which, despite how fundamental they are, fail to be addressed in organic and biodynamic certification programs . Given the strict selection criteria for the active ingredients used in plant protection products, this certification
program is on by with many others! We will continue our commitment to this system (Vignobles Chatonnet has been HEV3-certified since 2019) while of course remaining extremely selective regarding plant protection products and continuing to exclude herbicides, as we have done since 2004.
Agroforestry is one of the latest fashionable “developments”. 11 While I have nothing against planting trees or hedges for their primary benefits in terms of biodiversity, and we do indeed do this, at the same time I cannot understand how one could dream of achieving effective, large-scale viticulture while preventing all reasonable forms of mechanization. Planting a tree in the middle of a vine row is impossible, unless you believe that all forms of mechanization go against ecological principles. But just try telling that to the vineyard workers who spend their lives there. Making this a general practice today in medium- and high-density viticulture
would simply make no economic sense. If you extend this to include all climates and soil types, especially the driest, you will see that the results obtained are often quite the opposite of those expected. This practice certainly does still exist in harsh (dry) climates, but with a vine density two to ten times lower, and with agricultural systems that justify mixed farming, primarily for subsistence crops that are often grown on small plots. This is completely different from viticulture which, if not intensive, accounts for surface areas that are incompatible with economically viable individual vineyards. However, the agroforestry alternative is entirely viable if trees, crops and vineyards are alternated or juxtaposed in an intelligent manner, but not, in my opinion, if they are mixed intensively! Furthermore, we must not forget agro-pastoralism 12, now considered the best of the best, which “connects the animal and plant kingdoms” and “naturally fertilizes” the soil in our vineyards, with droppings from cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. Good luck having horned cattle graze in high-density, trellised vineyards (with a width of 1.10 to 1.50 m between each row). I have had people complain that miniature cow breeds could be used. But they would need to be hornless, which would go against the principles of biodynamic agriculture. It would doubtless be easier with sheep, but only in the winter. Perhaps with chickens or ducks, but you would need a lot of them! But what will all these animals eat? The cover crops that we would work to maintain or sow in autumn, so that they will be ready to harvest in late spring and be added back into the soil to supplement and nourish it. This seems slightly contradictory and difficult to manage on a large scale. Yet this practice seems to be founded on a profound logic resulting from millions of years of co-evolution between plants and herbivores: The consequences of defoliation for the plants have generally been considered negative, substantiating the idea, for example, that herbivores can only be antagonistic for plants. However, some authors 13 suggest that the negative effects of herbivory should be relativized; even claiming that grazing could stimulate plant growth. This concept of “compensatory growth” has been and continues to be the subject of fierce scientific debate. Despite these heated debates, the notion of overcompensation is an attractive one, particularly from an evolutionary perspective, since it suggests that plant-herbivore interactions could be mutually beneficial, and not simply antagonistic. 14 Yet the fact remains, in my opinion, that this practice can only be viable and sensitive in the ancient context of sylvo-pastoralism, a sustainable agricultural method that reconciles forestry and pastoral objectives. This livestock farming practice for meat and dairy production consists of having cattle graze in the forest in order to take advantage of spontaneous drilling resources located beneath the trees. At the same time, silvicultural thinning practices can help enhance trees and produce timber. It is therefore ideal for maintaining the forest and preventing forest fires, yet much more difficult to seriously reconcile with large-scale viticulture, unless viticulture is specifically adapted to pastoralism. There is no room for improvisation if the aim is to achieve real benefits beyond beautiful photographs.
13 McNaughton, SJ 1983. Compensatory plant growth as a response to herbivory. Oikos, 40:329–336.
14 Agrawal, AA 2000. Overcompensation of plants in response to herbivory and the by-product benefits of mutualism.
Trends in Plant Science, 5: 309–313.
The last, even more fashionable term is biodiversity! 15 Who could possibly be against a diverse ecosystem as opposed to invasive, single-crop agriculture? No one! But again, what exactly does this term mean and what can we expect in terms of tangible benefits? Biodiversity refers to the entire living world: fauna, flora, microorganisms, and the environments where they live together. All of these interrelated elements contribute to the functions of ecosystems and, when they are balanced, could positively affect the sustainability of the production systems. Without biodiversity, agricultural estates could not really exist. An environment that lacks diversity is undeniably more vulnerable to disorders caused by biotic and abiotic stress. We therefore imply that diverse ecosystems are more resilient and more productive overall than those with low diversity. While this is true at the overall ecosystem level, it is not necessarily the case at the human-ecosystem level, with a specific crop like grapevines. A perfectly balanced ecosystem with low diversity can be a “specialized” system, often one that is very efficient. Our goal is therefore to create an ecosystem with sufficiently positive connections to provide acceptable qualitative and quantitative benefits for the crops introduced by humans. But we can no longer return to the mixed crop-livestock farming practiced by our great-grandparents who, in order to lift themselves out of poverty, combined subsistence agriculture with the production they sold. There is much talk about the role of biodiversity, from useful insects that naturally regulate pressure caused by vine diseases and pests, to soil life, and even to the taste of the wine. Biodiversity also offers diverse landscapes that provide a wide range of habitats for numerous species, thus enhancing the vineyard's living environment and image. While there is clear proof that a diverse ecosystem is more resistant to abiotic stress, I unfortunately have considerable doubts as to its effects in terms of biotic stress and resistance to the main fungal diseases affecting grapevines, such as powdery mildew and mildew, and insect pests like phylloxera, which were all imported from the North American continent in the late 19th century. Indeed, our environment has no natural competitor to control them and Vitis vinifera has no real resistance against them! In this case, the benefits of biodiversity are only indirect, and while they are helpful, they are undeniably incidental. We must therefore be careful not to confuse when, how and why biodiversity can reasonably provide definite and positive effects. In this respect, diversifying cover crops is fundamental in creating the sources of varied organic matter needed to sustain the many organisms living in the environment and, above all, the microorganisms in the soil, which must not be forgotten in defining what constitutes the concept of “terroir” in the truest sense of the term 16. These diverse cover crops, which are planted in succession over the course of the seasons, also help improve water and soil management and provide food and shelter for surrounding wildlife. The strategic rather than systematic planting of hedges can create shelter for macro-fauna, regulate the microclimate, reduce erosion and improve the aesthetic quality of the landscape. However, a cover crop that is ill-suited to the soil, or a poorly positioned hedge, can also have very negative consequences on a vineyard's performance. It is therefore important to precisely analyze why and how it should be planted, and then measure the impacts based on reliable performance
15 https://www. https://www.fondationbiodiversite.fr/en/biodiversity-challenges/biodiversity-and-agriculture/
16 Role of the soil microflora in the definition and the development of the notion of 'Terroir'. Can it affect the composition
and the quality of the wines? Pascal CHATONNET XVIII CONGRESO NACIONAL DE ENÓLOGOS & II ENCUENTRO DE
ENÓLOGOS DE IBEROAMERICA Palencia, Castilla y León, April 4-6, 2019.
indicators and objectives, rather than simply being pleased with ourselves for having planted a hedge. Finally, there is now talking of “regenerative viticulture”. 17 But what might this be? Regenerative agriculture is characterized by a philosophy of agricultural production and a set of adaptable techniques that are strongly influenced by permaculture. As a reminder, permaculture 18 is “a form of agriculture based on sustainable development principles, which aims to respect biodiversity and people and consists of imitating how natural ecosystems function.” Permaculture is therefore an approach based on the observation of nature for the purpose of reproducing its models and relationships. Permaculture's central model is that of the primary forest, a naturally balanced ecosystem that develops harmoniously, without outside intervention. This is indeed an excellent model for hunter-gatherers, but not necessarily for “modern man”, since humans obviously saw the need to invent agriculture during the Neolithic age in order to better survive and develop. The main goals of regenerative viticulture are to regenerate the soil, increase biodiversity, sequester atmospheric carbon in the soil, improve soil resilience to climate change, optimize the water cycle and improve the provision of ecosystem services. In relation to permaculture, regenerative agriculture aims to focus on agricultural production and seeks not only to maintain the environmental and agricultural sphere in a satisfactory state, but also to improve it. It should be noted that the desire to “regenerate” implies the existence of a situation of overall degradation, which I find greatly exaggerated, if not catastrophic... But this makes it more attractive from a sales perspective. I honestly see no difference with what was previously called “conservative agriculture” 19 . Conservative agriculture (CA) or soil conservation agriculture (SCA) is “a set of cultivation techniques aimed at maintaining and improving the agronomic potential of the soil, while maintaining regular and efficient production from a technical and economic perspective.” The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) defines it as a farming system that can prevent losses of arable land while regenerating degraded lands.” This set of techniques aims to improve long-term economic profitability by reducing the need for input products (fertilize, plant protection products and fuel) without going as far as prohibiting them. These cultivation techniques are based on three fundamental pillars: reducing tillage, diversifying plant species and maintaining permanent soil cover through farming, companion plants and cover crops. The first mention of conservation agriculture dates back to 1997 at an FAO conference on the TCS in Mexico, but the FAO did not formally define the term until 2008. While it is not really new, it is certainly inspiring.
What is the difference between these two concepts, if not perhaps the clear mention of economic profitability (a contemptible term, of course, since profit and capitalism are the source of every evil on the planet) in the case of conservation agriculture, mentioned
implicitly in the case of regenerative agriculture? Not much or rather nothing at all.
Regenerative viticulture focuses mainly, if not exclusively, on the soil, with the primary objective of sequestering increasing amounts of carbon in the soil in order to improve their biological functions and enable optimal vine development. Yet this is not necessarily positive if no differentiation is made between the different types of sequestered carbon. More is not necessarily better. Hidden behind the term “regeneration” we find the foundations for other technical trends based on the concept of “living soil”, another cliché, which implies that failure to follow these practices will necessarily lead to dead or “zombie soil”, which is entirely inaccurate. However, there is no doubt that healthy and fertile land is the foundation for life above the soil and in the subsoil. In other words, it is the most important basis for the “healthy terroir” concept. 20 It is also clear that in general, humans must fundamentally reconsider the ethics of their position and role in the global ecosystem, including in the context of 21 st century viticulture, which is our primary concern here. To this end, I would argue in favor of “Spinozist viticulture”. Spinoza's central theoretical thesis (setting aside Spinoza's concept of “God”) is that there is only one infinite and unique substance, God, which is intertwined with the world and universe itself: the “Deus sive Natura” (God, in other words, Nature) 21 introduced by Descartes and taken up by Spinoza. Humans can therefore not be freed from Nature, especially not by believing they can dominate it. Spinoza's Ethics is defined by Virtue and Happiness. Virtue is the path to happiness. Virtue consists in living by understanding, which aims to increase our knowledge and understanding of Nature. There is therefore no need to refer to Goethe 22 and the hare-brained ideas he inspired in works by Rudolf Steiner. Besides a phenomenology which is expressed in esoteric, sometimes poetic and, at best, aesthetic terms, they cannot claim any precedence or offer a broader, humbler, more respectful vision of the living world. So I finally made my choice. The choice of freedom, transparency and honesty to ensure sustainability. Freedom is emancipation because it provides relief. It is not a state, but rather a process. For humans, freedom is about becoming the true source of our choices and hence our actions. In Spinoza's terms, freedom means acting in accordance with the sole necessity of one's nature. 23 Yet thinking for oneself also often means becoming isolated from others. Only those who have acquired enough self-confidence dare to set out on the path of independence. 24 Therefore, if I must adopt a model, it will be my own, that of “Agro-Synergic Viticulture”, which reconciles the organic, biodynamic, integrated, conservational and regenerative approaches, by borrowing all their positive aspects, in order to restore positive biodiversity that serves our
20 Role of the soil microflora in the definition and the development of the notion of 'Terroir'. Can it affect the composition and the quality of the wines? Pascal CHATONNET XVIII CONGRESO NACIONAL DE ENÓLOGOS & II ENCUENTRO DE ENÓLOGOS DE IBEROAMERICA Palencia, Castilla y León, 4-6 de April de 2019.CHATONNET 21 René Descartes 1647 “Metaphysical meditations” 224 pages Collection GF Edition FLAMMARION (8/03/201) 22 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1790 Essay on the metamorphosis of plants The Republic of Letters ISBN of the digital version: 978-2-8249-0442-9 23 Baruch Spinoza “Ethics” Theologico-political treatise, Ethics, Treatise on the reform of the understanding Amazon Fulfillment ISB 9798646600463 485 pages 24 Boris Cyrulnik “The Plowman and the Wind Eaters” EAN: 9782415001360 272 pages ODILE JACOB (03/16/2022)
sole purpose: producing wine of the best possible quality sustainably and in sufficient quantities, while keeping all our social and environmental commitments.
Although this approach is currently unique, it is by no means opposed to others taking up its cause. It requires clearly defining “specifications” which outline everything that is prohibited, and which are easy to monitor, both in the field and in the final product, since this approach is committed to producing results, not simply implementing means. This is the purpose of this book, which sets itself apart from pamphlets that express the best intentions without describing why or how they will be accomplished, instead simply providing beautiful drawings, photos and clichés. This work is a work in progress. It does not claim to have reached its culminating point or achieved perfection, and will therefore need to be constantly revised in light of experience, new observations and outside criticism.
“Hurry slowly, and without losing courage,
Twenty times on the loom put your work back: Polish it constantly and repolish it »
Nicolas Boileau, The Art of Poetry, 1674
(Hasten slowly, and without losing heart, put your work twenty times upon the anvil)