The final day of the SEVA trip to Champagne opened with a trip to Malakoff vineyard where we saw a lot of impressive machines used to tend their 150 hectares. More interesting was hearing about how new regulations are ensuring producers act more responsibly with respect to resource usage and waste, especially waste water. We were shown a very wide plastic/rubber mat laid outside the winery (I thought more like a very very large and shallow kids paddling pool I remember from my childhood) where all chemical preparations and machine washing-downs must take place. Tractors can drive on to be washed down. Many producers have created special concrete areas for this purpose. Waste water is pumped from there into special bags with porous tops which allow the water to evaporate over time leaving dried pesticides or other undesirable compounds to be taken away. The drying process takes 2 weeks to a few months depending on the weather and the time of year.
With Franck Mazy, who was hosting, we then left the winery yard to visit two local vineyard sites. He showed us an array of pests and nutrient deficiency, helping us to recognise symptoms: it’s fair to say it was very hard. Franck seemed a very credible bloke. He’s a consultant in the area (and in fact is currently doing some work with Nyetimber too) and he came across very well. He’s clearly a careful and thoughful vineyard expert and seemed to have great depth and breadth to his knowledge. He was clearly touting for business, but good luck to him.
Franck told us that the vines in Champagne are 3 weeks ahead of where they normally would be at this time of year, and that he had never before seen flowering in May. So these vines are 3-4 weeks ahead of this year in England. They are talking about an unprecedented 25th August harvest in Champagne. But then don’t these things so often seem to even up towards the more normal dates nearer the time . . .?