“To the Bat-Chai” (Biodiversity in the vineyard).
Before I start, a quick definition of Biodiversity – the biological variety and variability of life on Earth or in a specific ecosystem (such as a vineyard). Now, this is not a tee up for a sustainability disquisition. However will quickly state that we do have a sustainably ethos, which is not driven by shareholders, end of year appraisals or FGF’s (Feel Good Factors). Ours is based on a simple premise; by taking care of the whole estate, we want future generations of our family and wine drinkers to enjoy Château Méaume for many vintages to come.
This Blog is about the extraordinary biodiversity that I have learnt exists in our vineyard but not only exists, thrives. It is impossible to cover this topic in one post, in fact several posts would not do it justice. Instead, I will focus on one simple microcosm of this prodigious fundamental.
There is currently an ongoing craze in the wine world to “install” bats on vineyards (not cricket or baseball related bats, rather the airborne mammals of the order Chiroptera, that feature prominently in vampire movies). The reason and logic for this new craze is simple; one in-flight bat can consume >1,000 insects in a single night of radar guided foraging. While this hunger driven statistic is impressive, should said bat be part of a colony, the impact of just one nights orgy of arthropod consumption can be significant, in fact so much so that, after a short period of time pesticides can be removed entirely from the area of vines the bats navigate.
After one of my daily walks through the vines I naively asked about everyone’s thoughts on bats. There was a long pause, followed by sympathetic glances and it was at this moment I knew that I had once again demonstrated my spectacular lack of awareness. I was then politely informed “We already have a very large colony of bats in the old chai, they have been there a while”. Ah!
Picking up the shattered remains of my self-respect, I grabbed a flash light and wondered over to the old chai, and true as the night is dark, there hanging upside down in the rafters was a very large colony of bats. For some odd reason most of them decided to look at me at that very moment, as if in some kind of real life Gary Larson Far Side cartoon. The only thing missing was a caption saying “Well, well, look who finally decided to show up”.
To add insult to self-inflicted injury, when I returned from my introductory meeting with our nocturnal lodgers, I was reminded (again) that we do not use any pesticides, thanks in part to the inhabitants of the “Bat-Chai”. It’s at times like these that am glad I have access to a wine cellar with thousands of bottles.
Jokes and inverted mammals aside, while the wine world has been gesticulating about the “Chauves-Souris” (French for bat, and interestingly translates to “bald mouse”), our vineyard has been quietly enjoying the company of bats for many vintages, which arrived on their own accord and made their home in our lovely old chai (which will remain lovely and old as we will do nothing to disturb them). I am now a bat devotee (not influenced by the fact we are both “chauves”). During winter, I went to check on them and panicked when the rafters were empty. Sandra very calmly showed me that they had moved into the old disused vats (in the old chai) for shelter to hibernate. Ah!
I suppose my bat anxiety was due to the fact that I feel a custodial responsibility to the very fabric of nature that exists on our landlocked island. Because the riddle of Biodiversity is simple; WE are part of “the biological variety and variability of life” and must therefore find our place, know our part and contribute to maintaining its harmony and beauty.