Mulch ado about nothing


A certified organic Sangiovese vineyard called ‘Pascena’ belonging to Col d’Orcia, Montalcino, looking towards the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle. The wild grass and other plants in mid-row are about to be rolled to form a mulch or carpet using a roller which was specially made. The teeth on the roller just help puncture the wild plants so that they don’t spring back upwards into life.


The mulch or “carpet” slows the rate at which the vineyard soil dries out from the sun and lowers the average ambient temperature in the vineyard. Col d’Orcia is located in the lower, warmer and more Mediterraean part of Montalcino. The mulch allows rain to penetrate the soil more easily, slowing rain down so its drips slowly on to the soil rather than hitting it with a sudden splash. Splashing makes it easier for spores of pathogens like grey rot and the mildews to migrate from their natural habitat in the soil and up to the vines.


20140603-L1012264Mulching also helps stop erosion of soil (wind) and nutrients (rain). The mulch provides a habitat for beneficial fauna and a carpet for machinery in wet weather, especially in spring when the first treatments need to be made (wet springs have been a real problem in Montalcino in recent years, leaving growers to play “catch-up” on their spray schedules). The Sangiovese grape from which Brunello is made needs a very warm and sunny climate above ground but cool roots below ground if it is to ripen steadily to produce wines with interesting aromas and stable tannins. Mulching is a sensible, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of trying to achieve these aims.

Tim Atkin’s latest Brunello report published

Tim Atkin MW has recently published his latest report on Brunello di Montalcino, focusing on 2009 and 2008 Riservas. When Tim was editing a British trade magazine called Harpers Wine & Spirit Weekly in the early 2000s he asked me to write an opinionated monthly column on green issues called “Green Space”. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had. Tim just let me get on with it and really encouraged me to speak my mind – as long as I stayed within the law.

Tim Atkin MW

Tim Atkin MW

Like me, Tim has firm views on certain aspects of Brunello and we don’t always agree. But I’d much rather read someone with something to say and who is prepared to challenge received wisdom, especially in a place like Montalcino which is re-inventing itself – for the better – in a post-scandal, yet financially challenged world.