If you've never been to Wine Republic on Friday night or Saturday afternoon we taste. Tonight we had three old world classics. We started off with a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Langudoc Roussillon. This guy hit just like a Pouilly fume, subtle citrus pith, a touch of green apple, a little hawthorn, a little lemongrass and the minerality like liking a wet stone. Domain Gayda En Passant Blanc gives a beautiful twist on old world sauv blanc. Do it.
We then rolled west to Spain, Rioja. You know what's coming. Yeah. Tempranillo. Hacienda Lopez de Haro Crianza. At first sip you get that cherry, plum and fresh fig. And you also get a savory nature of tomato that flow nicely into linden flowers, a touch of cedar and tobacco. Lastly because of the American oak you'll find nice vanilla, dill and dried coconut.
Batting clean up, even though there are only three wines, comes a sangiovese based Toscana. Azienda Agricola Marjorie Poggio Auricle Toscana invokes aromas and flavors of red cherry, strawberries and plum. Dried rose petals lead you to herby thyme, tomato, tobacco and leather. These use Slavonian and French oak to bring subtle vanilla, cinnamon and clove.
What's not to love. Now we are gonna get into the super serious business of cover crops. Because the question I will address today is: "Is the use of cover crops worthwhile in viticulture?"
Oh yes, even the Romans thought so when they planted bean in between the rows of vines. The reasons that cover crops is worthwhile in vineyards are many. Main benefits include reducing erosion, improving soil fertility and increases the ability of the soil to hold water. One also gets a greater degree of biological diversity in the roots but also above ground in that certain cover crops will attract beneficial spider and mites that attack vine parasites. Additionally, certain cover crops will act as nitrogen fixers adding this specific nutrient without the aid of chemical means.
One of the main reasons to use cover crops is the great reduction in soil erosion. We do not want to repeat the great dust bowls of past generations but when farms continually farm the land without proper rest the soils become depleted and turn effectively dust like, making the top layer easily dispersed and lost in the long run. Cover crops connect the usually barren rows between the vines. These crops also keep the top soil from being distributed in heavy rains and keeps runoff water from carrying away even more soil.
Second would be greatly improved soil fertility in that certain crops will bring greater nitrogen and will bring a more varied diversity in the soil than just adding a bag of chemical fertilizer by spraying or drip irrigation. Also the addition of decomposing cover crops act as an addition food source for beneficial breakdown in a healthier tilth or soil condition. There is also the added benefit of crowding out unwanted weeds that drain the ground of nutrients that would otherwise be used by the grape vines.
Water runoff is one of the best things about cover crops since dry, packed earth tends to let water run away once it is completely saturated. In addition to the soil depletion when runoff occurs, sensitive root systems are unnecessarily exposed and make the vine more susceptible to attack by a variety of creatures. Also during the rains, barren earth between vine rows makes mud and the mud makes it very hard to move around the vineyard. With cover crops this is not an issue because the cover crops allow movement over the ground without disturbing the soil.
All these things lend to a vineyard less reliant on chemical or conventional methods. Many organic and biodynamic vineyard use cover crops specifically because of these benefits. These benefits often intermingle with one another creating a harmony in the vineyard that treats it like one giant living organism versus just plants that need to be sprayed with the cheapest chemicals and most meager bags of single chemicals like nitrogen. When cover crops fix nitrogen it does so in a manner that adds many other benefits besides just the one nutrient.
The decomposition alone creates waxy zones that keep more nutrients in the soil which would have to be added manually if other methods were utilized. There is also the possibility of harvesting the cover crop as a secondary product source. If one were to plant clover then one would be able to have bees come and use them for honey, propolis and royal jelly. Plus cover crops make the look of vineyards much more aesthetically pleasing.