Monday, 16 July 2018

González Byass and Sustainable Viticulture

This interesting article from was written by Raquel Benjumeda

González Byass is working towards sustainable viticulture and their weapons of choice are biological: roses, woodland daisies, lavender, rosemary, oleander, jacarandas and pheromone diffusers. The latter attract male moths into traps so they can't breed, obviating the need for insecticide, and the others protect the vineyard from mosquitos, spiders and fungi. This is what has been happening at the firm’s Viña La Canariera in the pago Carrascal.

Roses are planted at the ends of the rows of vines for the early detection of diseases which can be lethal to the vines such as oidium, a virulent fungus whose spores blow in the wind. It is attracted to the humidity of the rose petals and in a few days it can cover the leaves in an ash-like powder, killing them off. Once alerted, the vineyard staff can spray the roses and the vines with sulphur, a natural antiseptic.

Rose bushes

The woodland daisies which share soil with the vines begin to feed the mosquitos at the most sensitive stages of the vineyard cycle, the flowering and fruiting. There are referred to as weeds but those which grow spontaneously do not affect the vine’s yield. Lots of flowering oleanders will take over the provision of nectar for the mosquitos from the nearby sunflowers when they wilt offering an alternative to vine sap.

This combination of species protects the vines while avoiding the use of contaminating chemicals and is the method used in so called “integrated production” which has been successfully used for many years with positive results for the company and the environment. Integrated production is an intermediate step between traditional and organic viticulture according to the firm’s agronomist Manuel Delgado.


All the firm’s 414 hectares of vineyards are now managed this way, including the ones near Arcos where they make red wine at Finca Moncloa. There a project is under way to plant trees and shrubs to attract useful wildlife. At the 12 hectare La Canariera vineyard the organic conversion has begun, with no chemical products used for over two years. Next year the official green seal will be issued making it one of few organic vineyards in the area.

Along with the careful plantings in the vineyard, the winemakers will install advanced applications which will provide climatic and agricultural data throughout the seasons in real time so they can predict the conditions which might lead to the presence of fungi and insects and be able to act quickly. The idea is to use chemicals only if absolutely necessary.


There is now more colour in the vineyard than in the days when chemicals were used. Manuel Delgado says “we believe that as well as protecting the vines, this new bio diversity will favour an increase in other species which will fill the vineyard with life and colour. Already there are lots of quail and rabbits which live among the native shrubs which are being planted between the rows of vines. It all adds up to a healthier vineyard and a better product”.

This environmental conscience which distinguished Manuel María González, the firm’s founder in 1835, has been passed down the generations of both family and employees. The principle of responsible use of natural resources has resulted in the firm’s ten point sustainability plan “5+5 Caring for the Planet” created by the first five generations and dedicated to the next five. 

These are the firm's "Ten Commandments":

1 Reduce atmospheric emissions by reducing the use of fuel and increasing the use of electric vehicles in the bodegas and the planting of 10,000 native trees in the vineyards over the next 10 years.
2 Reduce the use of lights by installing high efficiency motion sensor bulbs, conduct audits of energy use periodically and harvest the grapes at night.
3 Increase the use of clean energy. Change from biomass boilers to solar panels for heating water in the bodegas.
4 Save water by using rainwater collection ponds, use controlled deficit irrigation and clean used water using specific algae in the firm’s own water purifying plants.
5 Reduce waste from bodega activity by recovering by-products from winemaking and distillation, production of organic fertiliser from cattle manure and 100% re-cycling of paper, cardboard, glass and plastic generated in the bodegas.
6 Change to eco-design, reducing the weight of glass in bottles, using re-cycled containers and packaging, buying cardboard and wood from certified forests, supporting and educating suppliers to achieve better results.
7 Test sustainable agricultural practices in the vineyards with integrated ecological production, substitute chemical treatments for biological ones wherever possible.
8 Conserve the biodiversity of the environment, protect fauna in danger of extinction, and conserve gardens and native species.
9 Undertake to offer people a range of products which are sustainable and respectful of the environment.
10 Social commitment to employees.

No comments:

Post a Comment