Martell – Promoting sustainable viticulture

Case Studies 19/05/2021

Our products take their character from where they are grown, their terroir, so we have a duty to care for the land and its biodiversity. Martell, a premium cognac, is made from grapes only from the Charente and Charente Maritime terroirs. The Maison Martell has been certified by both HVE and VDC since 2016.

Preserving legacy
Collectively winegrowers in Cognac are responding to the challenges of climate change to ensure quality ingredients, now and for generations to come. As a 300-year old Cognac brand, Martell’s winegrowing relationships go back many generations, and together we are safeguarding the centuries’ old  viticulture and terroir. Today, this means offering our winegrowing partners technical and administrative support as they transition toward more sustainable practices.

“Having supplied Martell for three generations, my family has a strong link with Pernod Ricard. Our relationship extends beyond a simple business transaction: it provides an opportunity for us to transform our agricultural model and make it more resilient.” Amaury Thomas, Managing Director of Distillerie & Vignobles Thomas, Martell’s partner-winegrower. 

New grape varietals
Martell’s sustainable winegrowing programme is making strides with 92% of 1,200 winegrowers engaging with the initiative. By investing in innovative research with academic institutions an important goal is to create disease resistant and climate adaptive varietals.

Since 2016, Martell has been working with research institutes, Conservatoire du vignoble Charentais, INRA, and BNIC to create new natural hybrid (no GMOs) grape varieties that are resistant to downy and powdery mildew (the two main vine diseases). The first 300 candidate varieties were planted in 2020, and the first harvest is expected in two to three years. That is the moment when oenological analysis can begin to assess if the grapes meet Martell’s exacting standards.

Investing in biodiversity 
The future of these vineyards rests on embracing new viticulture methods that protect the natural biodiversity of the terroirs. Across Cognac, Martell’s vineyards now feature planted hedges and trees, and crops such as radishes, oats and vetch between the vines. These plants play different roles from absorbing nitrogen to increasing the carbon content in the soil and water. 

In-field experimentation of innovative agro-forestry projects that foster biodiversity will begin in 2021.

Biodiversity inventories have been introduced, insect hotels have been installed, and vineyards avoid the turning over of land (tillage) from September to March to protect local wildlife. 

Reducing use of chemicals 
Reducing the use of chemicals has required rethinking some winegrowing practices. Since 2019, Vineyards that supply Martell have been operating as herbicide free. With winegrowers, new mechanical techniques are being developed to substitute chemical treatment. Cognac is also the first region in France to use equipment that limits the spray mist of pesticides. 

Martell’s winegrowers are striving to reduce the impact of chemicals by using organo-mineral fertilisers, limiting use of fertiliser through regular soil analysis, and favouring mechanical weeding over chemical herbicides. Alternative weed control methods such as water pressure are being trialled. Biocontrols such as treating downy mildew with algae, while essential oils and pheromones are being explored for pest reduction. 

Learn more at Martell’s Brand Home Maison Martell.

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