A recent study found that consumers have a very positive view of certification labels that vouch for the sustainability of a product or business. For years now, we at Gramona have been publishing successive updates of certifications such as Biosphere, which validates the sustainability of our wine tourism activities; Demeter, which certifies our biodynamic production in the vineyards and winery; and Eco Leaf, which is the European Union’s mouthpiece for organic growing.
But, there are other ways of identifying whether a growing environment (vineyards in our case) is healthy and sustainable. Here at Gramona, we have two types of creatures living alongside us that are excellent auditors of the natural environment – bees and bats. And, as long as these are around, we can be sure that our environment is in a good state of health.
We brought in the bees, or rather we ‘brought back’ the bees, in 2019. We introduced the first beehive in the Agora vineyard woods and today we have a dozen of them. We invited the bats in by setting up nesting boxes in the El Femer woods and El Manco vineyard. We take delight in seeing them happy in our company and we like to tell people that we have received the approval of these two little auditors!
Neither bees nor bats are particularly popular creatures. The former, because we panic at the thought of being stung and the latter because we associate them with horror stories. In their defence, it is worth stating that the FAO (the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation) tells us that 75% of the food grown on the planet depends directly on pollination by insects and small mammals, including bees and bats. Albert Einstein is credited with saying that if the bees disappear, mankind will have only four years left to live. To add to the argument, this time using humour as a weapon, the Ugly Animals Preservation Society in the UK has an important message for us: it’s not only the cute and cuddly animals that need to be saved from extinction! Let’s not forget that both bees and bats all over the world are at risk of extinction.
Bees are the biggest pollinators in the vineyards. It is said that their presence can lead to a 30% uplift in production, as they ensure the fertilisation of the vine flowers, and that the fruit obtained from their intervention is of higher quality. Not only are they our countryside’s best pollinators, but they are also producers of honey and other superfoods such as royal jelly, propolis and pollen, which are all reputed to be beneficial to human health. It is estimated that, to produce one kilo of honey, honey bees have to visit some four million flowers and fly a distance the equivalent of four times the circumference of the Earth! If we consider all the effort our bees make to produce the 20 kilos of delicious honey that we collect in the three seasonal harvests each year, it really helps to put things into perspective!
Bats are the only mammals that fly. With their insect-based diet, they help to control pests such as the grapevine moth which also flies at night, just like these small mammals. In addition to being beneficial to viticulture, with their voracious appetite for insects, bats are also a great devourer of mosquitoes, which are not only annoying to us humans but also carriers of diseases.
Both creatures are highly sensitive to pollution and pesticides, and are greatly affected by the imbalances caused by climate change. Their role in our ecosystem is threatened by the use of fossil fuels, intensive conventional agriculture and the build-up of greenhouse gases. At Gramona, we’re selfish. We want to continue to do our job, which is to make wine, on our land, and we wish to guarantee the long-term viability of this undertaking. To this end, we want to help maintain and increase the populations of these two species of auxiliary fauna in several ways. Biodynamic and organic viticulture, a diversified agricultural system, plant cover and mulching, stone walls and buildings, and nearby woodland… all these factors help to increase the numbers of both the bats and the bees in the area. And these things are all practised or present every day in our Gramona vineyards.
We intend to continue to renew the certifications of the environmental quality that the presence of bees and bats helps to ensure on our land and to grow their populations as much as we can.