The secret of mycorrhizae
The dream of any wine grower is to make a wine second to none, marked entirely by the idiosyncratic features of its terroir…
In his/her quest for the Holy Grail of wine, he/she is helped by fungi that have quite extraordinary properties: The mycorrhizae
A mycorrhiza (from the Greek mykós, fungus, and rhiza, root) stems from the symbiotic relationship between fungi and plant roots.
One essential condition for mycorrhizae to develop on the roots of vines is that the soil be living and therefore free of any weedkillers or pesticides because this type of fungus needs bacteria in the soil to develop.
The ectomycorrhizal complex is the scientific name to describe this association between fungi, roots and bacteria in the soil.
Mycorrhizae, which colonise the roots, have the power to bring the mineral elements in the soil to the roots, particularly potassium which has a significant influence on the organoleptic quality of the grapes. They therefore help to give wine its sense of place or terroir effect.
Conversely, a root that has not been “mycorrhized” will subsequently produce fruit that is nourished virtually entirely by photosynthesis, and therefore sweet but lacking in aromatic complexity.
Another property of these fungi is that their filaments stretch from one vine to another. Consequently, the vines become interlinked. This can be observed when a theoretically late-ripening Cabernet-Sauvignon is planted in a Merlot vineyard. The Cabernet-Sauvignon vine ripens at the same time as the Merlot!
Due to some of its preparations, biodynamic viticulture promotes organic life in the soils and the development of mycorrhizae – and therefore terroir effect or sense of place.