Bordeaux fete le vin
22 june, 2022
Cheval des vignes
Horse and man, for centuries an inseparable whole when it comes to work in the field. That was it, after all, until after the war it was decided to replace the working animals with new, more modern means: agricultural machines. These tractors were soon used en masse and displaced the horses from the vineyard. Where the animals in Champagne and Bourgogne were still used on a limited scale, they completely disappeared in the Bordeaux region in the 1950s and 60s.
Our search for a green and ecological future in harmony with nature sometimes makes us revert to old methods and traditions. Voila: the reintroduction of the horse to viticulture.
In the shadow of Chateau petit Val (Saint-Émilion) we meet the people of 'Cheval des vignes'. A family business that specializes in working the vineyard with their horses. This company works for several winegrowers and keeps their fields clean and fertile with the help of their tubers.
“We treat our horses like top athletes” tells us the owner of the company, Sébastien Bouetz. “they work a maximum of 10 years, five hours a day, every weekend off. After that, they can enjoy their retirement.” These clearly passionate entrepreneurs trained their horses completely by ear, indispensable if you know that they have both hands on the plow.
In addition to the ecological aspect (the horses simply have no emissions), there are a lot of benefits associated with the use of horses, Sébastien tells us:
The light horses (compared to the heavy tractors) can be used widely in vineyards where the slope (sometimes in combination with wet weather) or the way of planting do not allow driving with an agricultural machine. The fact that the horses are less wide than their mechanical counterpart also has its advantages: you can plant the vines closer together (which ensures a higher yield) and this gives more shade, which can be pleasant for certain grape varieties.
The accuracy of horse and human itself ensures that little or no extra time is needed for the same result. The precision and caution of the duo also reduces damage to the tendrils.
All these advantages have led to an increase in the proportion of vineyards working with horses (8% in 2020, today it is estimated between 10-20%). In the meantime, people are also becoming interested in the work of Cheval des Vignes abroad. Who knows, we may soon see them popping up next to the Bordelaise vineyards in faraway countries.