The Fine Art of Grafting Vines

It really feels like the Domaine is gradually opening up again, as we welcomed French clients from the restaurant and supermarket industries, and French holidaymakers came to stay in both the Bastide and the Mas over the mid-May Bank Holiday.

The potager too is starting to burst into life, with vegetables emerging after some heavy rainfalls in May. The broad beans, lettuces and artichokes are nearly ready for chef Ben to turn into some yummy dishes for our next guests!

“Grafting was historically a technique used by peasant farmers, planting their root stock and then grafting the variety of grape they wanted onto this rootstock a couple of years later. Grafting in vineyards was widespread in France in the late 19th century after the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards for wine grapes in Europe, most notably in France. Over the years this knowledge was lost as vineyards became more mechanised. Today grafting is not very common in vineyards in France, but is practiced in some prestigious vineyards that produce expensive wines in Bordeaux, Burgundy and North Rhone.”

Clément reflects on the history of grafting, and how much we see it in France today.

Vine Grafting of Rolle onto Cabernet-Sauvignon

Clément, Pascal and the team have been busy this month with the next phase of the vine grafting for a plot of vines at the entrance to the Domaine, that was formerly cabernet sauvignon grapes. As we explained in our December journal, the vines were not in good health, and cabernet sauvignon is not a grape variety that we use in our rosé wines, so we embarked on a process known as “grafting” to regenerate the plants, and change the variety from cabernet sauvignon to rolle, or vermentino.

This is a fascinating, immensely technical and lengthy process, but one that avoids us having to pull the vines out altogether and allows us to benefit from the cabernet sauvignon vines’ deep root system, which is better for quality.

The actual grafting itself took place this month, after several preparatory stages over the winter months. A team of seven people from Mexico and Argentina, working at a specialist grafting company called World Wine Vineyard, spent a long day at the Domaine and grafted an incredible 2,000 plants!

The estimated success rates for the grafting is 90%, and we’ll know any day now whether this has been a success, and when the grafted vines will break buds. Although the vines could bear fruit already this year, we will prune them so as not to tire out the plant and will aim for 2022 to be the first year of production for these new vines.