Discover the exceptional winter vineyard care techniques at Maison Michel GAWRON, where our skilled viticulturists meticulously prune and nourish the vines to produce higher-quality organic Champagne.
Each grape variety requires different care:
Winter pruning is critical for high grape yield and adequate light exposure later in the year. Pruning allows for the removal of canes, or branches that have already yielded fruit from the previous year, which would otherwise overwhelm and smother the vine. Only the branches that sustain future canes are kept from year to year, namely the trunk and the thick, bark-covered branches known as the framework.
In our vineyard, we cultivate Pinot Meunier (60% of our vines), Pinot Noir (15%), and Chardonnay (25%).
Pouillon’s soil is primarily clay-limestone-siliceous and dates from the upper Quaternary era. This soil is called “Sparnacian,” and it is ideal for the Guyot pruning method for Pinot Meunier, which entails long pruning on a short framework. When paired with the quality of the soil, this type of pruning promotes the plentiful growth of small, sugar-rich, and highly aromatic grape clusters. Furthermore, the southeast-facing slopes stimulate early maturation and high grape health.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, on the other hand, require short pruning on a long framework. We used the Cordon de Royat pruning method for Pinot Noir and the Chablis pruning method for Chardonnay. These grape varieties mature more slowly.
At our vineyard, we prioritize the well-being of our soil. To that end, we engage in mulching by grinding the pruning wood and returning it to the vineyard. This provides lignocellulosic material for beneficial organisms and insects in the vineyard, such as earthworms. This organic matter promotes the multiplication of these beneficial organisms, which in turn improves soil health.
Trellising also allows us to position the future grape clusters at a height of 75 to 85 cm above the ground. The white chalky soils of Champagne reflect sunlight effectively, making this the ideal height for the grapes to benefit from maximum sunlight, which supports their growth. It’s important to note that in Champagne, grape maturation is not solely due to direct sunlight, but primarily to sunlight reflecting off the chalky soil.
As a climbing plant, grapevines require trellising to grow upward. Therefore, we trellis the new shoots as soon as they emerge by tying them to a wire structure. We lift the grapevine shoots upward and direct them along the vine rows to create well-spaced rows. This allows for maximum sunlight exposure and easy maintenance of the vines.
We only apply exclusively organic and biologically derived fertilizers to nourish our soils. These fertilizers provide approximately 40 units of nitrogen per hectare and come mainly from the decomposition of plants such as corn cake, beet pulp, and manure. This is a very reasonable amount compared to conventional agriculture, which typically uses rates of around 80 units. We also use horse manure, which is even more natural.
We have opted for partially covered grassing, which allows us to avoid altogether the use of herbicides throughout the vineyard. This way, the vines do not absorb any toxic chemicals, resulting in better-quality grapes.
Every other row is mechanically tilled, with a shallow plowing depth of no more than 5 to 10 centimeters to maintain soil balance and promote microbial life. This type of tillage allows us to avoid disturbing the soil’s equilibrium. We also systematically weed the base of the vines to prevent competition for nutrients and water between the vine and grass, especially since irrigation is prohibited in Champagne.
The remaining rows are left with grass and are mowed at regular intervals. This approach results in better erosion resistance during summer storms and improved traction for the straddle tractor on wet soil. After heavy rainfall, it is easier to move around the vineyard with the straddle tractor, allowing us to treat the vines on a case-by-case basis and avoid mass spraying. The grass also has the benefit of returning nitrogen from the air to the soil and providing a habitat for beneficial insect allies in the vineyard.