So much for progress: traditional draught horses are returning to French vineyards, displacing the tractors that replaced them in favor of a kinder, gentler way to plow France's famous grape orchards.
We heard it through the grapevine... tractors are no longer factors for French winemakers eager to improve their vintages while polishing up their images. Now don't quit your day job, wife of Borat, the plows are going back to their original pullers: the sturdy draught horses employed for centuries before the internal combustion engine put them out to pasture, so to speak.
Now the horses are back before the plows and French vintners (we can't speak for the horses themselves) couldn't be happier. Using draught horses instead of tractors is a “strong new trend along with organic winegrowing,” according to oenologist Gilles de Revel, dean of the Oenology faculty at the University of Bordeaux's Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences.
Revel states the revival of traditional horse-drawn plowing has been embraced by vintners looking to add some pastoral panache to their brands. It's not just hipster chic that's behind the trend, however. Reintroducing horses has practical benefits as well.
Bordeaux vintner Dominique Leandre-Chevalier (pictured), one of the pioneers in the revival, believes tractors tend to compact the soil in which the precious grapevines are rooted. “There's not a lot of science in it,” agrees de Revel. “There's less compacting, so that the soil is allowed to breathe.” In addition, some winemakers believe the vibrations of the tractors' engines deleteriously affect the vines' root systems.