Wooly workers

Spring has sprung which in the wine world means it’s time for budbreak, that magical moment when sleeping vineyards come back to life and the vines start spouting little green bits that are the promise of the year’s vintage. Leading up to this crucial time for a vineyard, you might spot an interesting phenomenon in the fields: sheep. Vineyards in California, Australia, and South Africa utilize the wooly workers as natural gardeners to control unwanted vegetation. Sheep graze greedily on the cover crop- weeds the grow in between rows of vines to protect the soil of a vineyard- and provide a perfect amount of weeding, mowing, and fertilizing to kickstart the vineyard into action.

It’s the perfect organic option but there is of course a tradeoff. In addition to keeping down weeds, unknowing sheep will snack on the crop itself if left to roam free too long. Sheep have been known to learn to stand on their hind legs in order to reach the tantalizing tiny fruit and leaves beginning to grown. California is coming up with creative ways to solve this problem: there have been attempts at UC Davis to start training sheep to graze appropriately. One California is even trying to use a rare breed of dwarf sheep, called Babydolls, since they grown no higher than 24 inches. Sounds like a baaaah-rillant idea to me!

A witty wine label playing up this practice (also a play on words-Côtes du Rhône!)