This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The committee, since making their report on the third branch of the subject giyen them in charge, have visited the principal vine districts of Switzerland and Germany, and deem some of the observations there made worth being embodied in the supplemental report now submitted.
The vineyards to which attention was more especially given were those of the borders of Lake Geneva, those of Pflaz or Rhenish Bavaria, and of the banks of the Rhine, the Neckar, and the Main.
With regard to the quality of the soil, we have the same remark to make here as was made in the former report, viz., that the vines yielding the best wine were found to be growing on the poorest soil. Geologically, the soil throughout ail the above districts is very much the same, viz., basalt and sandstone, both formations usually seen in close proximity, the basalt uppermost and resting on the other. The only exceptions were a few patches of limestone and slate. The basalt soil is esteemed richer than the sandstone, and is often hauled on to the other to enrich it. For instance, the vine-dressers of Durkheim actually manure their thin, poor, gravelly land with tens of thousands of yards of earth, brought from the neighboring town of Deidesheim, and yet the Durkheim wine is quite superior to that of their neighbors. All this was quite different from anything we noticed in France ; there, calcareous rocks seem to underlie everywhere, nor could we learn of any wine of high repute in France that derived its quality from sandstone or basalt. The vine husbandry of the Swiss and Germans is of the first order. Nowhere do you see in their vineyards the straggling appearance so common in those of France (the effect of frequent layering); but the lines were always beautifully true and even.
Although the intervals or rows were wide enough for the plow to pass, nearly all the cultivation was done by hand, and done most thoroughly, too. In France, as in America, they stir the ground two or three times during the season. In the Rhinegan it is done four times; but about Forst Deidesheim and Durkheim they do it as often as every two or three weeks from the beginning to the end of the season. It is in the above neighborhood that basaltic earth is applied as a manure, as is also clay, to make the ground more retentive of manure; and this they do to such an extent that old vine fields are seen which have been raised visibly above the level of the others adjoining them.*
The expenditure of labor in a year on an acre of those fields amounts to about one hundred and forty days' work. In the Pflaz, it is usual to train upon horizontal laths or lines of wire running fifteen inches above the ground, very much as is done in Medoc, only that where wire is used, a second line is stretched above the other. Mr. Guyot, to whose book we have already referred, argues strongly in favor of everywhere adopting the method of training the fruit-bearing cane horizontal with the ground and very close to it. We ought, however, to note here, that the fields where this mode was more particularly noticed, or connected with good results, were in gravelly deposits of nearly level surface. Manure is freely used in Germany, much more so than in France and is prepared and applied with much care and system. Cow manure, largely composted with straw, is the only kind thought fit to manure vines. They sprinkle the heaps almost daily, to keep them moist and allow the mass to rot, at least twelve months before being used. It is applied every three years.
As to quantity, it is certain that some soils, like the poor and unretentive gravel beds of the Pflaz, should receive more than those of the neighboring slopes, and that the calcareous earths of France need less than the sandstone and the basaltic earths of the Rhine valley.
* Some yeara since the vineyard of F. T. Buhl, of Deidesheim, produced wine on the natural soil of a very inferior quality, selling at fifty centimes the litre, at a very great expense. The whole vineyard was covered to the depth of three feet by volcanic or basaltic earth bronght from a distance of several miles. The experiment at the time was thought to be a very hazardous one, but the enhanced value of the wines after the addition proved that the owner was wiser than his neighbors.
Guyot, arguing strongly in favor of manure, recommends the French cultivator to put on at intervals of three years a quantity of manure that will be equivalent in weight to that of the fruit he has taken off at vintage; while Mr. Herzmansky, the steward at Johannesberg, who tills some fifty acres of vines, keeps about forty very large cows in his stables. But will not manuring hurt the quality of the wine.
In our former report we say that this is an open question as yet, and so it is in France, and Mr. Guyot treats it as such in arguing upon it. Of course no one will doubt that were a vineyard to be treated in this respect, as we treat the soil of a grapery, very poor wine would be produced, and the only question is, will a moderate quantity do harm ? This is precisely the question the committee put to Mr. Herzmansky, the intelligent and thoroughly experienced director at Johannesberg, where the best wine in the world is made. His answer was, "No. As we apply it on this soil it does not impair the quality of the wine in any degree; on the contrary, it improves the flavor." Then he led the way to his well-ordered cow stables, and pointing to the compost heaps remarked, "There is the beginning of Johannesberger".
* The vineyard of P. T. Buhl, alluded to In a previous note, is fertilized by a compost made of wood-ashes, stable manure, and earth. This is applied in the spring in trenches dag to the depth of about ten inches and again covered with earth; the application is made in this manner to every alternate row of the vineyard. The following year the same process is gone through with in the remaining rows, by the removal of the soil as previously stated, and the treatment of manure as just detailed; this vineyard now produces wine of a very superior quality of a delicious bouquet, rich in saccharine matter and alcohol, and possessing all those excellences that we prize in a first-class wine, and is now readily selling at twelve francs the litre.