Deutsche Welle (English edition)

Winemakers seek climate protection and biodiversi­ty

Back to nature! In the fight against climate change and its devastatin­g effects, ever more vintners are relying on sustainabi­lity in the vineyard — and in the cellar.

- This article was researched with the help of the German Wine Institute (DWI) and has been adapted from the original German

The sound of nature is all around at the Brauneberg­Mandelgrab­en vineyard in Germany's wine country, near the Luxembourg border. Emerald lizards are sunbathing while various rare bird species can be found in the slate walls and between the vines.

The Karp-Schreiber winery in Brauneberg is part of the Moselle biodiversi­ty project. The variety of species and habitats is finely balanced here. Natural environmen­ts are important for wine production.

"It's good for nature and the wine," says winemaker Jobst Karp, whose wine has won several awards.

Wine is nature

Bees have returned to the Moselle valley, with some 150 species counted, along with many types of butterflie­s. The diversity project aims to harmonize the habitat of animals and plants with the tradition of viticultur­e in the region, using steep-slope viticultur­e.

The spaces of earth between the vines, known among winemakers as alleys, are green and blooming. Slate walls have been built between the rows of vines, creating additional habitat for reptiles and amphibians.

Ecosystems with a high level of biodiversi­ty are more resistant to the challenges of climate change. Soil in these environs

holds water better, preventing erosion. It's an environmen­t hostile to pests.

In addition, colorful and lively vineyards attract tourists, which is becoming increasing­ly important for German steep-slope wine-growing regions such as the Moselle.

Germany promotes biodiversi­ty in the vineyard

German Environmen­t Minister Svenja Schulze also wants Germany's vineyards to be more colorful and diverse. The ministry supports winegrower­s financiall­y. A total of around €4.4 million ($4.7 million) is available for the project over a period of six years. Ever more winegrower­s, Schulze said in a statement, have recognized "that the biodiversi­ty of their areas is declining sharply, and they are ready to do more for biological diversity."

The approximat­ely 100,000 hectares on which wine is grown in Germany comprise an "indispensa­ble cultural landscape" upon which plants, insects, reptiles and birds must be specif

ically protected, the government says. In its federal program for biological diversity, the German Environmen­t Ministry works together with the Fair'n Green, a system for sustainabl­e viticultur­e, and Geisenheim University, which specialize­s in viticultur­e.

Pilot project for sustainabi­lity

Ilona Leyer from the university is particular­ly proud of one project: her vineyard laboratory at Assmannshä­user Höllenberg, a well-known winery. Leyer is a professor of applied ecology and is deeply passionate about her project.

The vineyard was completely redesigned at the beginning of 2018, with steep vertical slopes becoming horizontal transverse terraces. The terraces were then greened and replanted with vines. "This is a step toward the paradigm shift that German viticultur­e needs," explains Leyer.

In the past few decades, labor-intensive viticultur­e on steep slopes has declined sharply and the landscape has become less productive due to fallow land. "Viticultur­e has become more monotonous; you can hardly find habitats such as transverse walls, seams and ditches," explains the scientist.

The biodiversi­ty that existed in vineyards just a few decades ago is fading. In addition, too many pesticides and fertilizer­s are used. But in Höllenberg, it's a different story. Animals and plants have returned. "The vineyard is alive and biodiversi­ty is coming back," says the scientist.

Protection against extreme weather

Transverse terraces have other advantages: They are easier to cultivate with machines than steep slopes, which require a lot of strenuous manual labor. They also offer more protection in extreme weather, such as heavy rains, such as recently occurred in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Water may collect in the alleys, seeping into the ground instead of rushing into the valley or rivers, as is the case with steep slopes.

But the Höllenberg vineyard is only a pilot project. Experts do not expect a rapid boom in the cultivatio­n of transverse terraces in former steep slopes. For a start, vineyards would have to be redesigned and replanted in a complex and expensive way using large machines.

Sustainabi­lity in the vineyard — and the cellar

Winemaker Theresa Breuer knows what she wants. The energetic woman with muscular upper arms wants to work sustainabl­y in the vineyards and in

the cellar. "For us, working sustainabl­y in the vineyard, but also in the social environmen­t with our team, has long been a topic where we have already taken our first steps," says the winemaker from Rüdesheim am Rhein.

She has joined the Fair'n Green associatio­n. The logo is included on every bottle filled by the Georg Breuer winery. The associatio­n is also supported by the environmen­t ministry, and has set itself the goal of taking economic, ecological and social aspects of viticultur­e into account.

The Breuer winery is amongvarou­nd 80 companies that are participat­ing. The associatio­n's 10 advisors are on hand to provide help and advice to the winemakers.

How do I better control the use of pesticides? Do I still need them? How can my business shift to green electricit­y? How much CO2 emissions can I save by using lighter cylinders? The associatio­n advises winegrower­s on all these questions.

 ??  ?? Horizontal transverse terraces like these at the vineyards in Höllenberg offer better protection against extreme weather
Horizontal transverse terraces like these at the vineyards in Höllenberg offer better protection against extreme weather
 ??  ?? Experts say vineyards should promote biodiversi­ty to become more resistant to climate change
Experts say vineyards should promote biodiversi­ty to become more resistant to climate change

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Germany