Visiting the quinta and taking in the beautiful view of the Tedo river, you may have noticed a horse grazing down by the river, undoubtedly moving his tail back and forth to keep the flies at bay, content and oblivious to everything else except for the next mouthful. That is our 18+ year old horse, Tedo. Not only is he one of our loved animals here, he is an integral part of the biological viticulture practiced here at Quinta do Tedo, all linked to sustainable agriculture. What is that all about, you may ask yourself, as I have asked myself many a time....? Let me back up 50+ years if I may, when in the shift to maximize agricultural production for the growing population and to develope big business, some not-so-friendly practices inevitably resulted: depletion of topsoil and groundwater contamination, the plight of the individual farmer unable to compete with agro-business, the exploitation of the worker in the field....a general disconnect on so many levels. Advance 50+ years and we are all more aware of the land, and we want to leave the world a better place for future generations (ie our children), and to somehow slow down global warming and the list goes on as we make concerted efforts to become stewards of the land. Sustainable agriculture is one answer to improving our planet and integrates three main goals-environmental health, economic profitability and social and economic equity. Thank goodness!
We proudly practice sustainable agriculture here at Quinta do Tedo, and are in the 3rd year of a 4-year process to convert from conventional viticulture to biological viticulture. Biological viticulture is the application of sustainable agriculture in the vineyard, and principle goal is to find equilibrium between viticulture and the environment. How significant are the differences between conventional and biological viticulture? Whereas in conventional viticulture +/- 200 products can be used in the vineyard with many preventive treatments to result in a large crop, in biological viticulture we use only 5 to 6 products, (believe me, we have never used even a fraction of the 200 products when we did practice conventional viticulture!), we spray only on demand and our crop is 35% less than in conventional viticulture. We don't use any type of herbacide, and the weeds (a positive term here, not a despised growth as in one's flower garden) must grow and are cut back after 3 to 4 weeks, because we need the roots for moisture and for erosion control. We only use certified non-genetically modified grape vines, each time we replant a grape vine that is too old (our oldest vines are around 75 years old!). We have 26 different grape varieties planted in our 13 hectares/29 acres of vineyard, partly out of tradition, but also in keeping with biodiversity.
So, where does our beloved Tedo fit into the biological viticulture picture that we boast? Simply put, Tedo eats the weeds, and in his manure are the weeds' seeds that reseed in the vineyards, that nurture the soil, that result in healthy grape vines and reduced soil erosion. Instead of 5 to 6 types of weeds in conventional viticulture we have 40+ different types of weeds, that Tedo helps us to proliferate, simply by munching so contentedly day in and day out. Some of the weeds of the leguminosae (pea) family, via symbiosis, incorporate atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, further enhancing soil quality and reducing erosion. Since Quinta do Tedo is dry farmed (no irrigation here) and not mechanized (too steep are the terraces and also out of philosophy) Tedo also pulls the plow in the winter months, when we apply organic-based fertilizer.
Not so bad of a life for a horse, eh? Viva Tedo!
PS Thanks Gretchen for the photo...