By Côtes du Rhône
Wine regions across the globe are facing climatic changes and societal expectations to protect the environment. Thanks to many of the Côtes du Rhône appellation’s natural attributes (dry Mediterranean climate, grape varieties resistant to water stress, strong Mistral Wind) and a conservation-friendly direction towards a more sustainable viticulture, Côtes du Rhône is playing a leading role in this challenge.
As the backbone of the Rhône Valley, the Côtes du Rhône AOC is devoted to quality across all levels of its hierarchy, from the foundational Côtes du Rhône AOC, across the dynamic Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC (both with and without an appended village name), to the renowned Crus. Collectively, Côtes du Rhône is adding regulations to the appellation rules (Cahier des Charges) to respect Agro-Environmental Measures. Already 12% of the total production is certified organic and many more hectares are in transition to becoming certified and/or following sustainable guidelines.
To ensure a sustainable future, the Côtes du Rhône AOC has a 5-point action plan committed to preserving this firmly anchored ambition.
- Drastically limiting chemical weeding
- A collective certification of HVE « High environmental value »
- Development of biodiversity in the Côtes du Rhône
- The Environmental Landscape Charter
- Development of disease resistant grape varieties
Preserving the quality of water and soil by drastically limiting chemical weeding in and around the vines is a top priority and mandatory for the 4,000 operators of Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOCs. This includes 40,000 hectares of vines that will restrict chemical weeding of headlands and more than 50% of planted plot surface.
The Côtes du Rhône Syndicat is supporting wineries moving towards the “High environmental value” certification (HVE Level 3). HVE is a French accreditation system introduced in 2011 to promote companies, not only wineries, proven to be working in an environmentally responsible way. There are 3 levels to reach full certification which includes the preservation of the natural environment (limitation of products treatment, fertilizers, etc.) but also biodiversity (conservation of hedges, isolated trees, small buildings, etc.) and rational management of irrigation water. In 2020, 365 wineries have earned HVE certification over the Côtes du Rhône AOC production area.
Development of biodiversity in the Côtes du Rhône AOC ensures continuity between the different natural spaces of our landscape, allowing species to move around and adapt to a changing environment. Côtes du Rhône partners with conservationists and environmental groups to develop and enhance biodiversity where the objective is to promote the auxiliaries of the vine such as bees, bats, and birds by installing beehives, nesting boxes, etc.
The Environmental Landscape Charter was established in 2014 to promote a holistic approach to vineyard management. Knowing the landscape and its impact helps the region better protect it. This involves preserving and enhancing the landscape elements (hedges, tree formations, etc.) identified as a source of interest and carrying out landscape actions in areas with potential for improvement. Vegetation is both aesthetic and structural for the landscape and the vineyards. Plant life has two major beneficial effects on water resource management: 1) regulating quantity by controlling run-off; and 2) regulating quality by filtration. To date, the charter has supported nearly 300 projects that helped mobilize winegrowers and other players in the territory (municipalities, communities of municipalities, elected officials, local authorities, etc.) in the preservation of landscapes.
The region has a research institute dedicated to technical aspects of viticulture and is central in developing disease resistant grape varieties. Currently there are two ongoing research programs, both launched in 2016, to adapt to climate change issues such as vine diseases and draught. The first consists of crossing a resistant variety with Syrah and Grenache (emblematic grape varieties of the Rhône). And the second consists of grafting vines on rootstocks with good resistance to water stress.
A vineyard naturally equipped to face challenges, Côtes du Rhône is dedicated to this strategy and action plan, and hopes to be well-positioned for the future.
Dive into a conversation with Côtes du Rhône producers on their vision of sustainability on SommGo™, SommCon®’s on-demand wine education service. Start your free 7-day trial to watch the discussion today!