By Laura Ness
Enartis, a 2019 WINnovation Award winner
BluVite (pronounced bloo veetay) was developed in Italy by BluAgri about 10 years ago to help grape growers deal with the inevitability of climate change. Enartis USA began trialing it here in the US in 2018. With BluVite and BluVite Red, BluAgri’s mission is to improve the efficacy of the microbiome of the soil by application of a biofertilizer, essentially comprised of peptides and minerals. It includes, among other things, elemental sulfur and hydrolyzed non-GMO yeast, which help boost soil fertility, improving the vine’s ability to uptake nutrients and better resist environmental stress. While it does not change the composition of the microbiome, it does stimulate the existing one.
By applying BluVite directly to the soils twice a year for reds and whites, grapevines can exhibit healthier growth, with more even shoots, a more uniform canopy, better berry set, enhanced cluster development and more even veraison. Above all, the vines are shown to produce perceptibly superior fruit, with a greater concentration of anthocyanins and phenolics.
BluAgri developed the product out of a resounding moral necessity to cope with climate change, says John (JT) Jaeger of Enartis, who is undertaking trials among approximately 53 vineyards—and counting—throughout the state of California and Oregon. Enartis started carrying the product manufactured by its sister company just over a year ago.
Jaeger, who grew up in the small farm town of Woodland, CA and studied plant and microbial genetics at UC Davis has always been fascinated with soils and is dedicated to protecting what he calls California’s greatest resource next to water. “We need to help protect soils and keep them healthy.”
He explains the circumstances that drove the product’s creation. “In France and Italy, they started experiencing extreme heat events, and vines noticeably suffered. They knew they needed to make the root systems more robust and resilient to diverse conditions and the solution had to be sustainable as well.”
Thus, BluVite was born out of an attempt to be green. It works by restoring the soil’s microbiological fertility, without inoculating external microorganisms. By stimulating microbes already present in the soil, the product helps nutrients to become more available to the root system, thereby strengthening it and resulting in a healthier plant above ground.
This approach took off in Europe where centuries of organic farming are the norm. It fits into the old-world way of growing and making wine, and today, after some of the largest vineyard properties in Italy have been using it, many for at least five years. “They are getting close to 500 vineyards now,” says Jaeger. “Even big wineries are using it. There’s a lot less skepticism there about using a biofertilizer product.”
BluVite is widely used throughout Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina and is taking off in the US as well. Enartis USA has been carrying it commercially for just over one year now, and Jaeger himself took over managing trials a year ago.
In spite of US skepticism, he’s had large clients sign on for long term trials. One is Daou Vineyards and Winery and the other Beckstoffer Vineyards. He even has had interest from other key players in the wine industry. “Many influential growers are showing interest for next year,” he says.
“All the big players are looking at ways to combat climate change. Beckstoffer is looking for a product that can increase resilience in all of their vines and improve their resistance to heat waves. It won’t cure red blotch, but it can help any vine whether it is in good shape or not. This is something that can be used across any vineyard.” Jaeger attributes this to BluVite helping to create a better root mass, which supports overall vine health.
Daou Vineyards and Winery is one of the bigger proponents of this product, and Daniel Daou (winemaker and cofounder) even presented findings as part of a trials presentation done at WiVi in Paso Robles and at IQ in Napa. According to the Daou trials, shoot length was longer, shoot diameter was larger and the measure of photosynthetic activity was greater in BluVite Red treated vines. They also experienced better berry set and more berry size uniformity, and ultimately larger clusters with slightly larger berries, increasing vine yields. Measuring pH and K concentrations in the juice, they observed higher levels in both for the control fruit, whereas there was a noticeable drop in both for the BluVite Red treated fruit, about 38 days after veraison.
Using HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), they also found a significantly larger concentrations of monomeric anthocyanin and overall anthocyanins in juice from the BluVite treated block. They also experienced a greater degree of extractability of the anthocyanins, leading to higher phenolics in the finished wines.
Furthermore, measurements of canes on the dormant vines shows noticeably more girth, along with a greater number of canes, with an average longer length than the control. This is another indication of enhanced vine vigor.
“Daou takes the long-term view, as does Beckstoffer. They truly understand that farming grapes is a moving target.”
Jaeger says that many other key players in the industry are also in the process of trialing the product. “98% of the people who have used it want to do a trial first.” He says you can trial with as little as two acres: one for control and the other for application of BluVite.
Jaeger recommends that vineyards do nothing different with their farming practices during the first year of use. “Change nothing as your root mass builds up,” he says. “Then you can pull out other variables if you wish.”
BluVite costs approximately $95/acre for red vines and $91/acre for whites, which must be done at bud break and then again at flowering, for best results.
What does success look like for Jaeger? “Having growers be able to utilize BluVite as one of the many tools in their toolbox, an important part of your trusted set of farming tools. Use BluVite to increase berry color and vine resilience but continue to use whatever else works for your vineyard.”
While most vineyard acres using BluVite are planted to reds, he says many wineries in California, Oregon and Texas are trying it on Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Italy, he notes, has adopted it widely for both reds and whites. He attended a conference in the Veneto region last year, where they have trialed a lot in the grape varietal used to make Prosecco, both treated and control. “A lot of the vineyards have adopted it entirely now,” he claims.
The product can fit into an organic and eventually a biodynamic program and Enartis is in the process of having it OMRI and Demeter certified.
Because BluVite is technically a fertilizer product, each state must grant label approval, and each state has different label requirements. Enartis is in the process of getting approvals for trials in Washington and British Columbia.
Jaeger also mentions that you have to be ready to commit to the product before bud break occurs. For a lot of vineyard owners, that means budgeting in the additional cost before the season starts.
But the results could be beyond tasty and if you can charge a wee bit more for the wine, it’s all good.
To learn more about Enartis’ WINnovation Award winning product, visit them at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo and Conference December 5 in Santa Rosa, where they will be exhibiting at booth 224.