There are rituals that we do in the vineyard out of superstition, techniques that play to the spirit of the soil. These anachronistic techniques keep us rooted to the history of the vineyard and remind us that the true flavors of wine come from the earth.
When I worked in St. Emilion, France, I would take epic walks around the great vineyards trying to get a handle on what I thought were the factors that lead to their greatness. I gained a keen interest in soils and would spend whole days plodding around staring at the ground, until the locals thought that I was mad.
One thing that perplexed me in the early days was the preponderance of small pieces of beautiful, 200-year-old porcelain, medicinal glass bottles in clear, blue and green glass, as well as millions of small oyster shells that clearly were not fossils. Once, I found the beautiful head and shoulders of a very old porcelain doll.
When I asked a friend where all of these little treasures came from, from the reply was: "the garbage". Before the great days of weekly trash collection, they simply threw everything out into the vineyard, and the only things that didn't decompose were bits of pottery, glass and oyster shells.
I love the idea of a person's garbage outliving him: that particular plate broken at a rather raucous dinner party or over the head of an unruly relative; the oysters from that incredible dinner party that paired so well with the crisp 1711 White St. Emilion (yes, it did exist).