If you ask 10 farmers for a definition of sustainable agriculture you will likely get 10 different but somewhat similar answers because it is both a philosophy and a system of farming. According to the Ecological Agriculture Projects housed within the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University in Montreal “It has its roots in a set of values that reflects an awareness of both ecological and social realities. It involves design and management procedures that work with natural processes to conserve all resources and minimize waste and environmental damage, while maintaining or improving farm profitability. Working with natural soil processes is of particular importance. Sustainable agriculture systems are designed to take maximum advantage of existing soil nutrient and water cycles, energy flows, beneficial soil organisms, and natural pest controls. By capitalizing on existing cycles and flows, environmental damage can be avoided or minimized. Such systems also aim to produce food that is nutritious, and uncontaminated with products that might harm human health.”
At Château des Charmes sustainable farming means we use various practices to grow the best quality grapes possible by minimizing the amount of foreign chemicals we need to add to the soil and reduce the impact we have on the planet in general. We believe we are custodians of the land. We want to make sure the land is productive now and for generations to come. Here are some of the things we do in our vineyards:
- Herbicides are never used
- Weeds are controlled by mechanically working the soil which tills the weeds underground where they become fertilizer
- Working the soil regularly not only controls weeds but also provides aeration for the vine root systems
- By-products from winemaking (ex. discarded stems, skins, seeds, discarded grapes etc.) are returned to the land as a natural fertilizer
- Pest control is utilized only when absolutely necessary and, when possible, natural products (like sulphur) are used in the smallest possible quantities
- All our vineyards are extensively under-drained to minimize the risk for root rot
- Composted manure is used to replenish nutrients in the soil from time to time, not chemical fertilizer
Weed-free between the rows. Stems and skins to be returned to the vineyard.
Gray water management lagoons.
Our sustainable practices beyond our vineyards include:
- Our cellars are geothermal; meaning heat and air conditioning are not used. They are 9 metres below ground and remain a constant temperature and humidity all year long.
- Gray water from the cellar (after washing tanks and barrels) is collected and pumped to a clay-lined lagoon at the back of the St. David’s Bench Vineyard. This water is naturally filtered then used in our sprinkler system to water our lawns and gardens.
- Finished wines are bottled in lighter weight glass. The glass industry is moving to more eco-friendly alternatives for bottling wine. Each vintage we search for manufacturers who work towards lowering their carbon footprint which in turn helps to lower ours.
- We still believe in using natural cork. Not only is cork a sustainably farmed product but overall its production has a much lower carbon footprint than the production methods used to make aluminum screw caps. We limit the use of screw caps to a select few aromatic white wines which are best enjoyed young and fresh. FSC certified cork is now becoming available. We are working to find suppliers who can supply us with this cork.
We believe sustainable agricultural methods help to ensure healthy soil and vineyards (and the planet in general) which can then produce the highest quality grapes possible. This is the first and most important ingredient in the highest quality wines.