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Viticulture

Since we know that climate change is almost irreversible and that in fact the world is in a climate emergency of which we are not yet fully aware, we keep wondering what we can do to adapt. The MIDMACC research project, part of the European program Europa Life, has been working in our vineyards for more than a year to find answers to a question we often ask ourselves: are we doing everything we can to cushion climate change? Mid-mountain vineyards, such as those we have in Mas Marés, can be a good tool to prevent erosion and therefore influence the consequences of climate change. Researchers have placed small machines in the vineyards to find out how the water moves in our vineyards, because this gives us clues about soil erosion. These data will help us determine the differences, at the environmental level, between working in gobelet-trained or in trellis.

Collecting data is a very subtle way to open a window into the future. We hope to be able to tell you all the fruits.

When spring breaks out, it’s a good time to replant and we’ve had some rods we’ve been looking for a few months ago. It is a long story from a vineyard that makes you dream, because year after year the wine that comes out of it is good, very good; because we’ve visited the vineyard many times and it’s beautiful. We had been in love with it for a long time and we finally decided to ask the winemaker for wood to reproduce it. Now we can have a piece of it at home and we can’t be happier.

The vines we grafted were from Merlot, from the vineyards that are closest to the winery. Adding these local varieties of old vines we created a frankenstein vine, as Miquel Hudin would say, but for us they are daisies next to Lake Léman. Having vines replanted with local varieties has become one of our main goals to reduce the environmental impact of our work. We have been observing the behavior of plants in the face of climate change for some time and we have found that those that are best adapted to it are those of local varieties.

We know that today’s work will bear fruit in the near future. It won’t be until a few years from now that this vineyard will give us wood to reproduce more vines, and we’ll also have to wait a while to make wine. A long journey to achieve sustainable viticulture, with vines that need less water and more resistant to climatic conditions in the area. A path that is also a tribute to the legacy of the viticulturists who preceded us: this encounter, the vineyard that we fell in love with some time ago, the wood that a good viticulturist, who has cared for it for so long, has offered us. All in all, a gift for the future of our landscape and the winemaking tradition of the Empordà.

This week finally wind stopped and were able to restart cuttings planting.

The cuttings are the feet of the vine, which after a while will carry the graft of the variety we choose. The rootstocks are planted and left for a year or two to adapt well to the soil. All the vines we have are grafted with American vine, a foot, therefore, which is not of local variety;)

However, all the vines are grafted and in fact it is the only way we have so that the phylloxera does not make the plant sick.

A few days ago we told you that one of the jobs we do during the winter is to uproot varieties that we have seen over time that did not adapt and did not give very good yields. In recent years, and thanks to the study of the library of varieties of the old vineyards, we have rediscovered varieties that lived among us, more or less forgotten, such as the white Carignan, the black Picapoll, the red Picapoll or the red Granache.

In a year or two, we will choose one of these local varieties and be able to start grafting plants. In the meantime, it’s time to wait and follow nature’s long cycles.

It has been a long time since we decided that we want to work with local varieties such as Grenache, Carignan, Muscat, Picapolla. There are several reasons, but surely the most important is because they are varieties very adapted to our soils and our climate and therefore this already makes the fruits better, because the plant can concentrate on making them the best it knows instead of fighting inclement weather, such as the north wind. These strains of local varieties need less water and have periods of sprouting and maturity fully adapted to our climate. They are definitely more sustainable!

We also do it because of the legacy, the tradition and everything that those who were there before us have taught us. The unique nature of these varieties will also give us the wines we want, deeply Empordà. The varieties are adapted to the north wind, need less water and have periods of sprouting and maturity adapted to our climate.

From time to time it is time to uproot vines, because more than thirty years ago we planted other varieties from outside. At the time, they were called “improvers” because they believed they could benefit the terroir. Now we know much more and in fact they have helped us to improve in our work, we have learned a lot from them and we thank them for all this learning. The ones we still have are uprooted little by little every year, some of which we replant with local varieties such as Grenache, Carignan of all colors, Picapoll, Muscat and Malvasias.

Winegrowers, like all farmers, live in permanent uncertainty. This year this tradition has allowed us to embrace this difficult vintage with love. We took the opportunity to connect with the earth like never before.

We already knew that we wanted the vineyards and the environment that surrounds them to be one: vineyards together in armony with the natural parks of Cap de Creus, Albera and a little further the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. We knew that the vineyards and the wild life are synergistic and that they protect each other. It’s an idea that doesn’t come out of the blue, but it’s a resulta of 20 years of work. This year we achived the ecological certification of all the vineyards and, although it is only a milestone in the path we are taking, it is quite significant.

This vintage, that we just harvested a few days ago, began a year ago. It was autumn and we had torrential rains that scared us for its virulence. The decision was to prioritize erosion containment as the primary reason for any decision-making in viticulture. The earth, the soils, are the basis of all life, and they must be preserved.

In the winter, Gloria, although it did not affect us much, reaffirmed all the thoughts of autumn and reminded us again that the climate is changing and that we do not want to be party to that.

And when spring was starting to blow its nose, COVID arrived. Then it was time to put into practice all the learnings about the uncertainty we had learned and also those of the generations before us (thank you Grandma Quimeta!). The big challenge was that no one would lose their jobs. Despite not knowing what would happen, the harvest would go ahead. The team became stronger.

And then THE RAIN. Rain and more rain and more rain and more rain. Be careful with your dreams, they might come true. The vineyards had never been such green and full of life. We had time to look at them in a different way: with much more calm and with the feeling that stepping on them heals our souls and removes our fears. The vineyard is grateful and knows that we take care of it like never before and it gives us fruits despite the difficulties and the mildew. We were happy and grateful.

In May, fifteen days of drought changed the landscape. And when summer came, we thought drought was important. The vigor of the vineyards stopped abruptly and the viticultural landscape that had been green until then became earthy. Eventually the fungus stopped and we were able to breathe a little quietly.

Finally, the harvest, one that we will remember: full of senseless scares. We looked compusively at the weather radars that signaled approaching hailstones or torrents but never reached us. Thanks Earth. The wild boar did not respect us so much and we had to harvest some vines earlier to get there before them. The feeling of helplessness is terrible. It has been too difficult to see how the grapes from whole vineyards disappear. We decided to close vineyards and concentrate again.

The vintage has been an endless obstacle course. However, the harvest has been quiet. The cellar has been slowly filling up, a little every day. Now the slowness of the vine is transmitted to the vats. We separate plots and parcels and we thank them for showing us the character of each. We have learned slowness in doing, in thinking. It helps us to be more aware and to better understand the profession and the land that sees us living on. And so we face autumn, looking forward the vintage that is already taking shape.

Anna Espelt Delclós