The Lion King is one of my favorite Disney movies. One of the key principles of the story is the concept of the “circle of life” — how everything in nature is interconnected. Science has shown us that it’s true.
A vineyard is a perfect example of the truth of this concept. A recent article in Decanter magazine discussed that research confirms that bees like cover crops planted in vineyards, which helps the soil microbiome. The soil microbiome helps the grapevines grow and improves the taste of the grapes — and the wine made from the grapes.
Nicole Rolet, who owns Chene Bleu, a vineyard in Ventoux, France, with her husband, Xavier, says that research shows that the best wines are made from soils that are rich in microbial life and nutrients. Bees also provide another essential role for both the vines and cover crops — cross pollination.
There are several covers recommended for sustainable viticulture, allowing vineyard owners to raise vines without using chemicals and avoiding pests. In addition, a carpet of cover crops can help choke out weeds by stealing valuable sunshine the weeds need to proliferate.
Cover crops can also help retain soil moisture, which could then be used by the vines, particularly in areas that receive little rainfall or may be experiencing a drought. And fruit produced from vines grown under the ideal circumstances produce wines that are complex in flavor.
“If you don’t have these micro-organisms in the soil, the wine will taste homogenous,” Rolet says.
A New Mexico vineyard experienced similar results. The vineyard, located near Lordsburg, NM, used soil health principles to plant covers and loosen soil without using tillage. The grapes grown in that vineyard have more flavor and last longer due to the increase of nutrients and water in the soil, according to the USDA-NRCS agent who worked with the vineyard.
So, it’s all connected in a giant circle—bees, cover crops, vineyard health and wine quality. And who doesn’t like a nice glass of wine?