Moët Hennessy said all of its own vineyards in Champagne will become free of herbicides in 2020, and that it will also work with contracted growers to help them become more sustainable.
The group will also invest €20m in a research centre dedicated to sustainable winemaking in Champagne, it announced at last week’s Vinexpo show in Paris.
While Moët isn’t the first in Champagne to commit to ending herbicide use in its vineyards – and the group stopped short of announcing a switch to organic farming – its move shows how the issue, and environmental stewardship more broadly, is focusing minds.
Moët, which is the drinks arm of luxury goods group LVMH, said it would also create a network named the ‘university of living soils’ to encourage knowledge sharing.
The Comité Champagne has previously said it wishes to end herbicide use in the region’s vineyards by 2025, as part of its sustainability plan – which runs alongside the French government’s ‘EcoPhyto’ initiative to make agriculture less reliant on artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.
Background: Focus on glyphosate
There has been particular attention on glyphosate, the active ingredient in some of the most-used herbicides.
French president Emmanuel Macron said in 2019 that he wanted the country’s agriculture sector to stop using glyphosate within three years.
Government officials have since said that glyphosate will be phased out, beginning in 2020, with the caveat that non-chemical alternatives must exist.
In December last year, France’s agency for occupational health, food safety and the environment, ANSES, said it was withdrawing licences for 36 products containing glyphosate, and would refuse to approve four new products.
Approvals for the remaining 29 glyphosate herbicides in France were set to be revoked by the end of 2020, the government has since confirmed.
That could have Europe-wide repercussions, because France is on a four-country panel that is re-assessing glyphosate’s safety at EU level. The ingredient’s current licence runs to 15 December 2022.
Some European wine regions have already ended glyphosate use. The Prosecco DOCG Council banned it in 2018, for example.