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4th International Congress on Mountain and Steep Slope Viticulture

7th - 9th november 2012 - Lyon (Rhône-Alpes - France)

The 4th international congress on mountain and steep slope viticulture took place in Lyon from the 7th to the 9th of November. It was jointly organised by the CERVIM and the Steering Committee of wine sector in Rhône-Alpes (CPVVRA) supervised by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (IOV).

The general theme of the Congress was: “Viticulture conquers the slopes again”. In some regions, the consolidation or the return to vineyards on steep slope areas can be observed, when in other regions going through economic difficulties, the vineyards are struggling to remain. Technical tours in the Côte du Rhône northerners, in Beaujolais and in Savoie gave a good illustration to these tendencies. In areas where the product has a strong image, like in Côte Rôties, the vine stays in steep slopes and can even be consolidated by the construction of new vineyards in embankment. In others areas in complete transformation like in the Beaujolais, special measures have to be implemented to preserve vineyards in steep slopes.

Presentations have been classified in 3 sessions to illustrate the general title.  

Theme I:   Technical innovations for the management of mountain and steep slope vineyard

Cultivation of mountain and steep slope vineyards requires a high number of working hours because of the limited possibilities to mechanize. Since decades, research organisations concern by this viticulture have developed technical innovations to reduce working hours, ensuring at the same time grape quality and environmental sustainability, particularly concerning impacts on soil conservation and landscape preservation.

In this session, nine oral presentations and several posters were presented by researchers from different countries.

To introduce the session, an important review of the work done since 40 years by different experts of GIESCO (International Group of Research on vine-training methods) on various farming system experimented in steep slope vineyard was presented. 

Different technical innovations have been defined according to the vineyards specific situations (steep slope, embankment…), local climate, vineyards structure (orientation, vine-training methods), varieties and qualities of grapes. New ways of vineyard mechanization have been developed and improved in order to reduce the need in workforce and to manage efficiently the vineyards. The high cost of this new type of material led to a necessary collaboration between farms, research organisations and agricultural machine manufacturers.   

Irrigation and fertilization techniques, when they are possible, represent important means for vineyards management. These techniques have to be correctly used in order to improve the vine performance, the grape quality and to avoid excessive vigor, which is harmful for the quality and causing mineral elements loss. Evaluation methods of the vine’s water status in order to manage irrigation were presented. Mastering soil management techniques and their consequences on the hydric status, fertility and soil conservation is a central question for the steep slope viticulture. The choice of appropriate methods for the grass cover according to the type of soil and local climate must be carefully thought in order to avoid competition between grass and vine. Plant density effects on grape and wine quality; the research of an optimal ration between the foliar surface and the grape load in traditional vine-training or minimal trim vine-training have completed this session towards a possible renewal of vineyards.   

Theme II: Valuation of genetic resources, grounds and landscapes of mountain and steep slope viticulture

The 2nd session was about mountain and steep slope viticulture advantages.

Genetic resources: Typical and local grape varieties often exist in the areas of steep slope and mountain viticulture. These varieties are clearly identified thanks to modern and biotechnical methods. Genetic selection works are undertaken to know their qualitative potential and their adaptability. The development of these varieties could offer a better valorization of mountain and steep slope vineyards.     .    

Diversity of soils and climates: Mountain and steep slope vineyards are characterized by a great diversity concerning geology and pedology. The soils were considerably modified by glaciations, pile of rubble, erosion and river effects. Land-surveying and altitude also influence the climates, which are variable on a small scales.

Landscapes: Mountain and steep slope vineyards often constitute landscapes of great value that need to be preserved. The use of modeling tools or landscape charter allowing the rallying of all the stakeholders concerned by these landscapes were presented. An explorative study intended to analyse the actual consumer’s consideration of the landscape values. All these arguments were considered by the president of the Côte de Vermeille in his declaration to defend mountain and steep slope vineyards.

Theme III: Economic aspects and valuation of the products of mountain and steep slope vine growing

Obtaining high quality products is necessary for the mountain and steep slope viticulture development. However technical moves at the heart of quality investigations have to go along with specific marketing concepts adapted to these situations.  

Analysing problems related to the wine crisis, which started 15 years ago in Beaujolais, allowed identifying solutions to rebuild vineyards. Producers are forced to rethink their wine management, their landscapes, their economy and their means to promote the consumption of Beaujolais wines. New strategies are explored to create economic opportunities in order to give life and to protect rural landscape in Beaujolais. Solutions going from the abandonment of wine monoculture to the creation of a mixt production with gardens or orchards, with a view to develop wine tourism and to rebuilt the image of Beaujolais wine are studied.

After 40 years of collectivism, the great work carried out for the revival of the Tokay vineyard showed that it was possible to conquer the slope again and to revive the historical notoriety of Tokay wines thanks to the investigation in quality and the technical and financial contribution of famous wine-makers coming from all over the world. 

Studies performed by the observatory of Appeninno southerner analysed opportunities for the mountain viticulture in the South of Italy. Global warming could play a positive role for the mountain viticulture in this region. Plain vineyards are exposed to the lack of water and extremely high temperatures.

The University of Gastronomic Siences of Pollenzo in Italy, in collaboration with associations of wine and grape producers, carried out a study on the measures to implement in order to reduce administrative barriers and to encourage authorities to adopt a code of good practices to simplify the control of wine-making.   

The development of a specific marketing and communication concept for the mountain and steep slope wine-makers was presented.  Having reasonable choices in terms of communication and well-defined partnerships is essential and must be coupled with a greater attention of producers. Possibilities offered by internet to promote mountain and steep slope were exposed, they seem to be the cheapest and the most efficient solutions for this kind of wine-makers.

Actions led as part of the European Convention of Landscapes financed by the European Commission to make the public sensitive to the landscape preservation, in particular in the farming sector were described.