Posts Tagged ‘environment’

LaMotte

La Motte Wine Estate Vineyards.

The Blushing Bride, a rare white or pink flower with silky, pointy petals, is somewhat of a legend in the Franschhoek Valley. The story goes that it was discovered in the surrounding mountains in 1773 and came by its romantic name from its use in a rather romantic tradition. A French Huguenot farmer who was in love would wear this flower in his lapel when he decided to propose to the girl he fancied. The pinker the flower, the more serious his intentions were, causing the bride-to-be to blush at the sight of the flower.
 
Sadly, as with other near-extinct fynbos varieties in the region, the Blushing Bride disappeared from sight for many years. It was rediscovered about a century ago and since then conservationists have been determined to return the iconic flower to its former glory.
 
Today Blushing Brides, rare disas and various kinds of proteas are being brought back to life on the La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek, where they can be seen in full bloom in the estate’s large Protea Garden. La Motte’s proud collection of rare flower varieties that are lovingly cultivated and re-established in the area is one of the reasons for it to have been awarded Champion status in the Biodiversity in Wine initiative (BWI).
 
Although best known for its international wine brand, La Motte is an estate that has conservation and sustainability at its centre. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the beautiful Organic Walk guiding visitors through the vineyards, fynbos nursery and gardens on the farm and concluding with a tasting of the organically grown Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc.
 
The walk offers visitors the opportunity to see how passionate La Motte is about sustainable farming and conservation. Visitors have the chance to see and smell the Protea Garden and stroll through the sustainably farmed and organically grown vineyards, the indigenous landscaped gardens (this time of year a carpet of lush green and soft purple and white), the nursery where micro greens and orchids are cultivated, and the biodynamic vegetable and herb gardens that supply the Estate’s award-winning restaurant and farm shop with fresh seasonal produce.
 
Head Chef Chris Erasmus and his colleagues at Pierneef à La Motte restaurant visit the garden in their gumboots every morning to pick out the freshest seasonal produce for their signature Cape Winelands cuisine. Chef Chris also guides on what to plant in the garden and places orders ahead of season. Beautiful things are grown, like purple speckled beans, cucumber-shaped aubergines, peas, watercress, yellow and purple carrots, radicchio, kohlrabi, sour fig, rocket, sweet basil and the fine succulent Pork Bush (“Spekboom”) which can be used in salads.
 
La Motte has been farming organically since 2007 and in 2009 received EU and NOP organic certification by SGS in France and NOP organic certification by LACON in Germany. Everything on the farm bears testament to this ethos.  La Motte has long been a leader in flora conservation work and sustainable, eco-friendly farming practices in South Africa and this commitment has just earned it the title of South Africa’s top practitioner of sustainable wine tourism by the internationally respected Great Wine Capitals of the World (GWC) network. GWC annually awards top performers in wine tourism in ten wine regions of the world, including South Africa. 
 
La Motte was also the overall winner of the South African competition for the second year running, making it the best wine tourism player in the country, thanks to its acclaimed restaurant, art museum, architecture and wine.
 
A closer look at how things are done on the farm reveals a rare attention to detail in every aspect of the farm’s life. The Rupert family and its wider La Motte family are visibly passionate about sustainable farming and conservation.
 
More than ten percent of the land is dedicated to conservation. The entire farming operation is set up to be self-sustainable, which means that almost everything that is needed to keep the farm running is produced on the farm. Everything is about quality over quantity – a method that takes time to yield results, but pays dividends in the long run.
 
One case in point is how water is treated on La Motte as a precious and limited resource. Water used in the wine cellar is treated and purified using natural methods only, never with chemicals. The farm dam provides all the water the farm needs and receives its water from the Kastaiingsrivier and rain. The farm uses drip irrigation to save water and water meters are used throughout the farm to monitor water usage and catch leaks.
 
Special attention is also paid to the rehabilitation of the soil to keep it healthy and chemical-free. No chemicals have been used on the farm for the last seven years. Special earthworms are fed the kitchen waste to recycle it into concentrated compost that is diluted with water and used across the farm to nourish the soil and plants. Only natural methods are used for pest control and fertilisation. Dry mulch is used to keep out weeds and wet mulch is used to keep in moisture.
 
Visitors can extend the Organic Walk by taking the 5km hiking trail into the surrounding mountains.
 
The herbs grown on the farm, including lavender and buchu, are used for the extraction of essential oils that are used to make the range of Arômes de La Motte body products sold in the farm shop.
 
As CEO Hein Koegelenberg explains, La Motte took the path of sustainability at around the turn of the millennium. This meant that quality and consistency would come first. The whole La Motte experience has become testament to this new sustainable way of thinking, and today the estate’s international awards prove that it was a journey the international wine tourism industry supports and honours. It is an ethos that enjoys sharing its passions with guests in a way that both entertains and educates and in the end it has winners on all sides: the estate, its people, its visitors, the environment, the local tourism sector, and the regional economy.

 

A French study found chemical residues in wines, but at low levels; experts hope to eliminate need

Disturbing reports of pesticides and fungicides in French wine have raised concerns for consumer safety, but the laboratory that sounded the alarm said the results of their study were misrepresented. The lead author said that chemical residues in wine are too small to have an effect on drinkers, but he added that vineyard workers are being exposed to a significant health risk.

“You’ll consume much more pesticide residue eating apples and strawberries than drinking wine,” said Pascal Chatonnet, Ph.D., owner of Excell laboratory, which works with wine and food industries in several countries, and runs labs in France, Argentina, Spain and Chile. “Your liver will be completely destroyed long before you’ll have toxicity from pesticide residue in wine.”

According to his analysis of 325 French wines produced between 2008 and 2010, 90 percent of the wines showed traces of up to nine molecules related to pesticides and fungicides. None of the molecules are known carcinogens, and the vast majority of wines had levels significantly below legal limits. Only 0.3 percent of the wines did not meet current regulations. “There is no health problem in drinking wine in terms of pesticides,” said Chatonnet. “We have no reason to believe there are high levels of pesticides in wines.”

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Chinese wine industry could endanger Panda's habitat.

Chinese wine industry could endanger Panda’s habitat.

The habitats of endangered giant pandas are being threatened by planned vineyard plantings in the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi and Sichuan.
According to the South China Morning Post, authorities in Shaanxi plan to plant 18,000 hectares of vineyards, and similar schemes are in the pipeline for Sichuan, putting the 1,600 wild giant pandas that inhabit the provinces at risk.

While the Chinese government has set up reserves for giant pandas, the animals don’t always remain inside them.

“Vineyards around a panda reserve can definitely affect the animals.

“Pandas move outside of reserves, so the forest outside is an important habitat. If forest is cleared to plant grapes, there may be direct loss of panda habitat,” climate change specialist Dr. Lee Hannah said in a study of the impacts of climate change on wine production and conservation.
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Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux is to turn its carbon emissions into toothpaste.

Speaking to the drinks business at an en primuer tasting of the estate’s wines last week, co-owner Daniel Cathiard revealed details of the unusual plan.

“Our aim is to be as green as possible, so we’re going to capture the carbon emitted during the fermentation process and turn it into bicarbonate of soda to be used in toothpaste,” he said.

“We don’t want to waste anything here, so why not make the most of our carbon? We produce a lot of C02 at the winery and we want to be like a forest and capture it,” he added.

Cathiard told db that he would turn the carbon from a gas into sodium bicarbonate and sell it on to pharmaceutical companies for use in toothpaste.

He plans to make his first batch of bicarbonate of soda this year.

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Fine wine coming soon!

 

 

The Mediterranean may one day no longer be suitable for wine production

Vino connoisseurs, take note: Your next fine wine might come from Yellowstone or Canada. Climate change is quickly making it harder for some of the most famous wine-making regions in the Mediterranean to produce grapes, according to a new study published Monday.
Nearly three quarters of the world’s wine-producing regions might become unsuitable for grape production by 2050, according to the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Climate change has the potential to drive changes in viticulture that will impact Mediterranean ecosystems and to threaten native habitats in areas of expanding suitability,” the study suggests.

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Dante Alighieri.

Dante Alighieri.

 

A winemaking descendant of the poet Dante Alighieri is urging the local government of Veneto to tighten planning laws to protect Valpolicella from urban sprawl.

Count Pieralvise Serego Alighieri, the owner of Serego Alighieri, has said that the combination of lax planning regulations and growing population is putting the countryside at risk.

Along with other producers and environmentalists, he has presented the government with an appeal that demands an immediate freeze on the building of all homes, factories and industrial estates in the area around Valpolicella.

 

 

The appeal adds that as the population of the valley outside Verona has doubled in the past 25 years to over 70,000, the beauty of the countryside is at risk.
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A Brown Stink Bug Nymph.

A Brown Stink Bug Nymph.

 

 

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is now in at least 39 states and is a major economic threat to orchard fruits, garden vegetables and row crops.

 

First detected in the United States a decade ago, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is now in at least 39 states, is wreaking havoc in homes and gardens, and is a major economic threat to orchard fruits, garden vegetables and row crops. It’s no wonder the USDA ranks this pest as its top “invasive insect of interest.”

But help may be on the way: USDA scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., are searching for ways to control the stink bug by deciphering its genetic toolkit, studying the pheromones it releases, and evaluating potential attractants for use in commercial traps. ARS is the USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
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The signs of climate change are universally evident, but for French winemakers, already feeling the effects of competition from other countries, the year of volatile weather does not bode well. A lot of rain, a late spring and a summer that never arrived have resulted in earlier harvests. This has contributed to grapes with lower acidity and higher sugar content. In other words, higher alcohol and fruitier resulting in cloying wines – with too much residual sugar and not enough acidity to balance the character of the wine.

 

The changing climate has affected the delicate balance of weather, soil and other factors central to the production of wine. Last year saw the smallest harvest in at least 40 years, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The estimate is that overall production is down by 20 % because of the temperamental weather across France.

It is believed that if nothing is done to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, vineyards will be displaced more than 1,000 km beyond their traditional boundaries by the end of this century, jeopardising the wine-growing industry. Already, it is becoming difficult to produce fine wines using the Pinot Noir grape on its traditional territory in Burgundy. But the effects of climate change on wine crops have also been visible around the globe.
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The energy industry’s growing interest in a controversial extraction technique has growers worried about water problems and other environmental concerns

 

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In several appellations on California’s Central Coast, winemakers tout the benefits of growing vines on soils rich with decomposing shale, which allows for good drainage and deep root penetration. Now that same terroir also promises bountiful harvests for the energy industry, whose experts predict that the region’s Monterey shale formation contains more than 15 billion gallons of oil.

But unlike typical drilling operations, which have long existed alongside many Central Coast vineyards, the only way to extract oil from the shale is with hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, a process in which water and chemicals are pumped into the ground at high pressure to break up the rocks and force out oil or natural gas. Though the basic technique has been used sporadically for at least 60 years in California, recent innovations combined with high energy prices make fracking more alluring than ever. Shale formations in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Ohio have produced promising returns.

Yet as the technique’s popularity grows so does the controversy. Critics claim fracking threatens freshwater resources, both because the process utilizes vast quantities of local water and because the chemicals used may contaminate sources. Fracking operations bring heavy traffic and pollution to quiet rural areas. And some geologists believe the process may increase the risk of earthquakes. Debates are raging in other states where fracking is under way. New York has been undergoing a 4-year environmental and health review to determine if fracking will be permitted and, if so, under what conditions. A decision is expected in late Feb.
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If the Napa Valley can’t reduce traffic to arrest global warming, does any other wine region have a chance?

 

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If you build it, they will come – in droves. But Napa Valley’s booming wine industry has created a buildup of traffic that is giving county planners a headache. Napa Valley has long been a leader in environmental responsibility, passing a landmark Agricultural Preserve law in 1968 that severely restricts development outside of cities, and its environmental behavior as a whole is right up to the mark. However, Napa County is finding that actually passing a Climate Action Plan isn’t easy. Last year, the county’s planning staff came up with a proposal that would have restricted wineries from expanding production facilities and tasting rooms without paying large penalties. Everyone seemed on board with the scheme until December, when the powerful Napa Valley Vintners organization led a push that sent the plan back to the drawing board. The vintners didn’t like some of the costs they would have had to pay, including carbon mitigation fees 10 times higher than those on the open market. But their biggest objection was the fact that the plan sought to take most of the carbon reduction from wine production, when the biggest culprit – by a large margin – is traffic.

 

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