The village ‘ Cazaugitat ‘ captures in its name, the landscape as it once was, a ‘Garden thrown [by God] ‘, a Garden of Eden, smothered in Spring with colourful flowers over meadow, vineyard and orchards.
Then came pesticide use, and the garden changed. Beautiful wild flowers have become rare, almost extinct. Bees struggle to find enough nectar to make honey stores for winter. Exquisite flowers from the Orchid, Lily and Anemone, to name a few, are now highly protected by law.
So we search.. and then delight in the few small colonies that we find..
The older generation claim that in their childhoods the vineyards were full of yellow Daffodils, red and yellow Tulips, as well as the amazing red Peacock Anemones, that I had never seen before I came here.
But there are no more of these flowers in the vineyard. The largest colony of Peacock Anemones in the region exist in the playing fields of Cazaugitat coming into bloom just as their companion, the Daffodil fades, and exceptionally, there is one vineyard and field of Daffodils, in the same village.
The Tulip of Agen was originally brought here by the Romans, nearly two thousand years ago from the Orient, and dispersed itself until it became a famous flower depicting the southwest. There are only a few colonies left in L’Entre Deux Mers, and one of them is in our garden.
Finally, after living here for twelve years, we have found a few of the beautiful, native wild yellow Tulip Sylvestre, growing at the edge of a field. Its common names are Vine Tulip or Before Easter, clearly referencing its moment of bloom.
A little politics
A lively debate is taking place between wine producers today. To be or not to be organic, that is the question. The problem is that, in L’Entre Deux Mers the micro climate swings between extremes of wet and dry, while the soil is heavy clay, not actually suited to the vine plant, so it is very vulnerable to fungal and aphid disease.
Traditionally copper has been used, in fact since the Romans grew the first vines, to kill mildew that thrives in damp, hot weather. And since the introduction of pesticides, sixty years ago, the vine reliably produces grape for profit, and therefore is happily used without caution.
But, the wind is changing direction. On the 14th of February 2016 in Bordeaux, six hundred people came together to protest against the continued use of pesticides on the five million hectares of land exploited by wine producers. Gironde is the most polluted department in France mainly because of chemicals used on grapevine. Their concerns are ecological, as well as health and safety for people who live alongside vineyards, an example of outrage being the case of twenty three children, and their teacher who were hospitalised, suffering sickness and headaches, after being sprayed with pesticides while in their school playground.
There has been a growing interest amongst producers themselves in bio, or bio dynamic wine production. They are citizens too, who would prefer to consume organically. I am unable to find exact figures, but there are in the region of two hundred certified organic producers, which is a drop in the ocean of eight and a half thousand producers in Gironde. Yet, their success provides the example, and way forward.
The argument against organic methods rely on attestations from producers who have reverted back to chemical use from organic, because they found its methods ineffectual, needing to repeatedly spray vine, therefore using more copper and petrol. They prefer to use new, safer pesticides and fungicides with caution, while reducing their use of copper, petrol and manpower.
The Government is listening to these arguments, and trying to find a middle road. In the main it is recommending, and will make regulations as to distances and times vine spraying must take place to protect citizens who live and work close to vineyards. And there is pressure from the public and Bio Agencies to put into full drive the ‘EcoPhyto’ plan launched in 2008 to reduce pesticide use nationally to 50% of its present, by 2018.
The debate will continue, but the growing concensus is that organically managed viticulture, as agriculture nationwide, and probably with regulated use of chemicals, is the future.
God threw seed, Of flower, tree and herb, Into fertile soil, That we may live, In a Garden of Eden, And then He made one request, That we cultivate,
And care for it.