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.
Mulching 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.