Sep 30: There has been a lot of focus on Garlic in our diet recently during Covid-19 with experts concurring globally on its immunity building properties, so it is not surprising that the claim made by a French viticulturists Anthony Chaudron in Champagne, who claims that the fungus on the vines does not feel comfortable and the anti-fungal ingredient can fight off the powdery mildew Oidium, writes Subhash Arora who feels this technique could also be helpful for viticulturists in India
Viticulturists and winemakers have to face many adversaries during the process of making wine, with the fear of phylloxera, smoke taint, killer frosts in the Spring and birds buzzing around their vineyards with ripening fruit a distinct possibility. There is also the danger of disgruntled saboteurs like the one in Montalcino where in 2012, an ex-employee opened the tank valves of the iconic Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera winery, causing a loss of around $12 million worth of wine. The memory of January 2010 is still alive about a rogue threatening to destroy the prestigious Romanée-Conti grand cru monopole vineyard, unless a €1 million ransom was paid by Aubert de Villaine, partner of the iconic Burgundy winery.
Then there are unforeseen accidents. A few days ago, Vitivinos Winery, located in Villamale, Albacete, in Central Spain, saw one of their wine tanks burst, causing a massive spillage of 50,000 liters of red wine that simply went down the drain.
But one of their most persistent problems is the powdery mildew, also known as Odium which is the scourge of every vineyard in the world. This fungal disease, a menace to wine regions, creeps its way across the vine leaves and eventually to grapes, choking yield and quality, if not managed properly. Because of the damage it causes, winemakers have been hoping for a long time to stop the spread. According to Wine Spectator, some vintners use sulphur sprays, while others take the help of synthetic fungicides. Anthony Chaudron, a French viticulturist, has taken the help of an unorthodox weapon which is a household name in gastronomy and is found in every kitchen- garlic.
“Garlic is antifungal and naturally fights off powdery mildew, he is reported to have told Wine Spectator. It reverses the pH of vines. The fungus no longer feels comfortable on the vine,” he says.
Chaudron first heard of using garlic as a preventative fungicide almost a decade ago. Gardeners and farmers have known for a long time that the foodstuff was a fungus fighter, with several health benefits for humans and plants. Champagne Louis de Sacy conducted the vineyard trials with garlic spray on 22 acres of vines, and concluded that it was the best way of protection against odium.
Garlic and wine flavours
But wouldn’t garlic in the soils affect the flavour of wine? Explaining that he uses organic garlic macerating it in oil for 12 to 24 hours before making it into a rainwater-based spray and applying in the growing season, long before harvest takes place, so the garlic aromas in the grapes are not an issue.
Chaudron asserts that the use of garlic doesn’t violate any viticultural regulations of Champagne. He feels that it is also cheaper than adding sulphur. He concedes that a few champagne producers have been sceptical of his technique. But he is hopeful that this pungent solution can fight the disease well and it could become more widespread in all vineyards. This could also be Food for Thought for wine producers in India.
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