People don’t usually equate bees to winemaking. In fact, many of them do not have any idea of the importance of bees when it comes to producing grapes. If you have visited a winery or a vineyard, you might have seen that some of them keep their own beehives on their property. Other people often refuse to go to vineyards because they are allergic or they are just afraid of insects in general. However, bees actually have a big role in making high-quality wines.
What do bees contribute?
A lot of environmentalists advocate the preservation of bees’ population growth. They have a direct and indirect effect on what people eat and drink because they are the primary pollinator of crops. These insects also help in protecting other insects which, in turn, act as predators for the pests.
When it comes to vineyards, the high presence of bees is an important indicator that the vineyards are healthy as growers do not need to use chemicals in maintaining them. An organic or biodynamic vineyard only uses natural growing techniques to make it sustainable. The bee’s role in this is their cross-pollination which allows fruits and other flowers to grow. This results in other insects visiting the vineyard and protects it from being destroyed by unwanted pests such as green lacewings and syrphid flies or hoverflies. If a vineyard has a full and healthy ecosystem, everything works together so its soil is replenished with important nutrients and allows grape vines to grow well and properly.
Although bees are also attracted to fruit sap and juice, this does not pose a problem if a vineyard follows a holistic approach to reach a healthy ecosystem. Bees are fundamental and also the foundation for this approach. They act as the main pollinator and, at the same time, act as the guardians of the vineyard. Natural yeast can be found in the intestines of bees which can also be found in the fermentation of wine. When vines are planted without the help of bees or if they are planted with the help of chemicals, these grape vines will probably be damaged or produce low-quality wines.
But there are also other ways wherein a vineyard can benefit directly from having beehives in the property. Other wineries have already started profiting through selling honey made from their own hives.
Fantesca’s Honey Bees
Fantesca Estate and Winery also adheres to the principles of having a biodynamic vineyard and that means they also have their own beehives on the property. Not only do these bees contribute in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, they also produce honey to be sold alongside their wines.
In 2014, Fantesca and the Napa Valley Bee Co. agreed on building a bee colony next to their Cabernet vineyard. Rob, the resident beekeeper, is in charge of maintaining it by taking a holistic approach in beekeeping. It means that he allows natural selection do its job on the colony and whichever bees are the strongest will last throughout the season.
Currently, Fantesca has 13 frames in their beehives which produces darker, richer honey thanks to the foraging conditions of the bees in the Napa Valley. When the bees have built their combs, Rob the beekeeper gets the honey by running the combs into a press and then extracting it by using a mesh bag.