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Wine lovers back sustainability research funded by wine tourism

A wine estate in southern France is crowdfunding for a project that will use wine tourism to fund research into biodiversity.


Biodiversity, which concerns the number of different kinds of of animals, plants and micro-organisms that populate vineyards, has become a bugbear in the global wine trade, as intensive farming is one of the key factors in the loss of species around the world. A recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations found that 24% of nearly 4,000 wild food species – mainly plants, fish and mammals – are decreasing in abundance.

Wild pollinators such as bees, butterflies, bats and birds, are also under threat, according to the white paper, which collated global data, academic papers and reports by the governments of 91 countries

Addressing 30 Masters of Wine at a seminar in Chile last month, Dr Olga Barbosa, from Chile’s Austral University, said that viticulture “can be a partner to solve the problem of mass extinction”.

A number of large-scale producers have already implemented biodiversity projects at their vineyards, but Chêne Bleu, based in the Southern Rhône, is calling on loyal customers to help fund its own sustainability initiatives.

The estate has set a page live on that offers a range of tourism packages, including access to various educational biodiversity projects, as well as critically  acclaimed wines, naming a beehive, and the option of stays and hands-on activities at the estate.

One package, costing €15,000, includes a two-night stay at the estate for up to 17 people, along with wine tastings, a blending workshop, and wines to take home.

Chêne Bleu is based within a UNESCO biosphere reserve in the foothills of Mt. Ventoux in southern Rhône. The estate partners with scientists from the UNESCO biosphere reserve and Avignon University on research into non-chemical pest control, and with with soil microbiologists Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, who are using the estate as a case study for the pursuit of making fine wine sustainably by harnessing the ecosystem surrounding the vines rather than using artificial chemicals.

Proceeds from the project will fund a range of initiatives around sustainability, including purchasing up to 10 new beehives and new bees for Chêne Bleu, a study on bees and their impact on biodiversity and winemaking; research
on the health benefits of honey in humans and propolis in the vineyard; “BEE-o-Diversity” educational  tours at the estate; developing publicly-available educational materials; and increasing the estate’s bee population to cover a wider territory around the vineyard to help wildflowers and flora thrive.

The winery has already surpassed its £20,000 crowdfunding target with 10 days still left to go, receiving more than £28,000 from 70 backers since the start of the month.

The biodiversity study will go on to provide the skeleton for a “practical roadmap for vineyards looking to break away from using chemicals,” according to a press release from the winery.

The outcomes of the study will be shared with UNESCO scientists at Mt. Ventoux Nature Reserve and neighbouring winemakers.

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