This month we hear from Tom Newham (Vineyard Instructor), and Dona Frost (Programme Manager), who accompanied Wine students on a trip to Vinitech in Bordeaux.

It has become something of a tradition at Plumpton College that there are no classes during the last week of November so that we can make the bi-annual pilgrimage to Vinitech in the beautiful French city of Bordeaux. Vinitech, which runs on alternate years with Sitevi in Montpellier, is Europe’s largest trade show for the viticulture and winemaking industry. 

Plumpton College students have been attending Vinitech for over thirty years, a particular highlight for the new students and this year was no exception. Around thirty students from all academic years and all courses from Wine Production, Wine Business to MSc students attended the show. 

The show had over 900 exhibitors; upon entering the building from the tram stop, we faced a multitude of vineyard machines. As we progressed into the show, we entered the winemaking section and saw many tanks, presses, barrels and other winemaking kit. There was a combination of the tried and tested, new innovations and the bizarre (I have been attending for over twenty years now, and I still came across equipment that I had no idea about). 

We took some students on a tour of the available under-vine weeding/cultivation equipment. This equipment is not new within the organic sector, but with the reduction in herbicides in vineyards across Europe, the use of under-vine cultivators, blades, rollhackes and finger weeders has increased, and this was evident by the high number of suppliers manufacturing this equipment. Another point of interest for the students was vineyard equipment not seen in the UK, such as over-the-row tractors. 

Innovation is always a part of Vinitech, and this year was no exception, with a handful of exhibitors displaying robotic technology. The Vitibot Bakus, a 100% electric and autonomous vineyard robot, was worth a look. The recent change in the French AOC rules allowing a certain percentage of Interspecific crossings (Piwi) to be permitted in vineyard plantings, and the blends, of many AOC regions from 2023 were also big talking points. Many of the nursery exhibitors were offering tastings of some new varieties, including Voltis for use in Champagne and Floreal in Bordeaux white wine.