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  • April 10, 2017
  • Organic Compost?

  • by Lars Carlberg

Last year, a large, well-known VDP estate replanted one of its core Riesling blocks in the Niedermenniger Herrenberg. The old vines in this privileged sector (listed in the cadastre as Flur 1 "Im Herrenberg") were grubbed up, surely, because there were too many dead vines leaving gaps between those that were still there. One of the primary reasons for this was esca, which is killing a lot of precious old vines in the Mosel region. This means that growers have to constantly replace dead or dying vines with young ones each year, or risk losing the chance to keep up. (This large block of ancient vines had been leased long term to another winemaker who is based in the Middle Mosel and rendered from their fruit one of the most impressive Saar wines of recent times.)

This estate, which, to its credit, practices organic viticulture here and in other top sites, has now added compost as an organic fertilizer. The only problem is that this is full of plastic debris, and the vineyard manager doesn't seem to be bothered by it.

The compost most likely comes from biowaste. It's called "green waste" or "grass clippings" (Grünschnitt), mulch from a nearby community. The compost can  contains heavy metals, organic pollutants, and plastic. Other well-known producers get their compost from sewage plants. This was a big issue in Champagne, where municipal waste from Paris was dumped in many of the vineyards until 1997.

Plastic doesn't belong in a vineyard, much less one that is farmed organically. It's already difficult enough to keep plastic bands and clips for tying up the vines and RAK pheromones from littering vineyards. Why put organic compost with plastic in your vineyard? One can use cow dung with straw from a local farm instead.  ♦

  • Today, I spent three weeks picking up plastic debris (mostly bands for tying up the vines on single-wooden stakes) from an ungrafted, old-vine parcel that the Webers are recultivating in the Zuckerberg sector of Niedermenniger Herrenberg. It’s shocking how little regard many growers have for their own soil. (Even one of Egon Müller’s best blocks in the Scharzhofberg has plenty of plastic bands that have accumulated over the years. These get plowed even deeper into the ground. Fortunately, his current vineyard manager has stopped using these bands.) The plastic eventually breaks apart to become microplastic.

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