Try rognage: Sancerre launches the world’s first simulation machine for canopy management!
It is called rognage, when you trim or prune the canopy (the leaves) off the vines in summer to remove excess leaves. It is often done several times during the growing season. The purpose is to have a good balance between leaves and fruit, to avoid that the leaf canopy becomes too dense (which might lead to rot), and to make it easier to harvest the grapes when time comes.
Sometimes there is a distinction made between rognage, cutting the leaves on the sides, and écimage, cutting at the top. Most of the time one only refers to all of this as rognage, in English, trimming or pruning the leaves and branches, or canopy management.
The leaf trimming also helps to make spraying with treatments more effective and possibly to reduce the risk of rot since it makes the canopy less dense and more aerated.
Usually the pruning is done with a tractor equipped with what looks like a big lawn mower hanging vertically.
The Maison des Vins de Sancerre has just created what is, as far as I know, the world’s first simulator for rognage, canopy management.
As opposed to flight simulators, it is not, as I initially thought, meant to train professionals. Instead it is a fun way for anyone who visits the Maison des Vins de Sancerre to try out and test drive a vineyard tractor and get a taste of what it is to be a vigneron.
I tested it recently when I was there, invited by the Centre-Loire marketing bureau (which is based in Sancerre).
It was fun. And it was difficult.
It is a real tractor cabin mounted on hydraulic supports that simulates the movements of the tractor. Instead of a windscreen the tractor has a huge computer display (well, flat-screen TV) that shows you a vineyard and rows of vines.
The result is actually quite realistic. It almost feels as if you are sitting in a tractor and driving over bumps and vineyard rows. Almost.
Here’s how it looks.
Wine writer David Cobbold (author of the blog More Than Just Wine) proved to have an brilliant future career ahead of him as tractor pilot, if ever he can not make both ends meet with his wine writing. He easily made the day’s top score of over 150,000
Agnieszka Kumor, a Polish wine journalist based in Paris, proved also to be very skilled in tractor driving, although I suspect she cut of quite a few vines when barging through the vineyard across the rows in the tractor.
And me? Luckily I was holding the camera so when I tried the simulator no one filmed it. I managed to make the tractor tip over and fall… Only in the simulation run, fortunately, not in real life. The simulator was still standing even after my test drive.
Unfortunately I missed making a video of the forth participant in our small group of death-defying simulator testers, Hervé Lalu (author of the often eminently interesting blog Chroniques Vineuses, and contributor, just like David Cobbold, to Les Cinq du Vin). I regret that particularly since he was the only one who was close to a score as poor as mine.
Here’s what it looks like when you sit in the simulator. You have a steering wheel that gives the direction and a joystick that controls the speed and moves forwards and backwards. The operator in this case is Benoît Roumet, who happens to be the director of the Centre Loire wine marketing board. So not strange the rognage goes perfectly smooth!
The simulator is available for the public to try at the Maison des Sancerre in the Sancerre village. There is a small entrance fee for the Maison.
The Gregoire tractor “cockpit” has been donated by SAS Alabeurthe, a supplier of vineyard equipment. The hydraulics has been engineered by Jean-Paul Fleuriet vigneron at Cave de la Petite Fontaine and Noël Reverdy of Domaine Bernard Reverdy & Fils. The simulation software has been developed by the computer games software company Polymorph, with an integration between software and mechanics by ID Simulation. All, from what I understand, with a minimal budget and a lot of goodwill!
It is worth mentioning that the Maison des Sancerre is not your average wine museum with old to ancient vineyard tools. There are lots of audiovisuals, a video displayed on a three dimensional map of the region, fun and interesting stories, a curious three-dimensional display of people in the vineyards. Good example of a wine “museum” that tries to be different and innovative.
The event was sponsored by Les Vins du Centre-Loire, including Sancerre, Quincy, Reuilly, Chateaumeillant, Coteaux du Giennois, Pouilly-Fumé and Menetou-Salon.
This post is also available in: Swedish