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Mythopia

Domaine Mythopia lies high up in the Swiss Alps at 800m+ elevation. This is not just a vineyard, it's also home to the research centre for the Ithaka Foundation and its Institute for Carbon Intelligence. The vines and their surroundings are left as nature would have them, and wines are made naturally with no additives.

LITTLEWINE spoke with Hans-Peter over Skype

"We wanted to see if it could be possible to create a wine garden that is lush - with a high level of biodiversity: plenty of insects, plants, fruit trees and aromatic herbs..."

People:  Hans-Peter & Romaine Schmitt

Place:  The Valais, Switzerland

Varieties:  Pinot Noir, Fendant, Chasselas & Solaris

Hectares:  3.5 spread over three parcels

Farming:  Organic, with elements of biodynamics and regenerative agriculture. No-till

Wines: Click here

Did You Know? Mythopia is not the only Schmitt baby company; there is also the Ithaka Institute, which Hans-Peter founded in 2007. Its primary purpose is to fund and expand research into biomass charcoal, also known as biochar, for soil revitalisation in agriculture - namely in Switzerland, Nepal and Bangladesh, but rapidly expanding to other countries. Not only does biochar improve the function of the soil, but it also sequesters carbon; so in the face of global warming, it is one solution the world is crying out for. As if that wasn’t enough, it can also be used as a building material and as water waste treatment; rendering it a sort of miracle cure. It was only natural for the two companies to meet in some manner; so Mythopia also became home to field and ecosystem trials for Ithaka.

“We worked to reestablish an ecosystem that is the most robust and sustainable. We wanted to see if it could be possible to create a wine garden that’s lush - with a high level of biodiversity, with plenty of insects, plants, fruit trees, aromatic herbs… We wanted to see the vineyard get into a balance that doesn’t need chemical interference, and where you can go between February and November and always find something to eat, without worrying about intoxicating yourself.” 

That simple goal of preserving life was the goal of the whole Mythopia adventure. Many people had told them that this would not work - that they couldn't grow vines amongst other vegetation, because the hydric stress and fungal pressure would be too great. They didn’t listen. Despite its decades of abuse, life began to return to the vineyard already after the first three months of halting the chemicals. Although the soil was still in a state of complete disrepair, grasses and flowers were able to grow. 

“This brought a major difference into the system - statistically every new type of plant attracts ten species of insects, if you install sixty species of plants you should already have 600 species of insects. So by seeding our cover crops and by planting trees and shrubs, the goal was to increase biodiversity. To see it happen so quickly was really inspiring.” 

“The vines were used to fertiliser and water being fed to them from above, so they grew roots that spread out at the top of the soil, not the bottom. It was a real hardship for them in the first years, but from an ecosystem point of view this was a major step. As we’re in the mountains, life returned quite quickly, including birds and all types of animals. Suddenly, they...

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