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We can save ourselves having to buy another tractor.

Rachel & Benoit Billeter-de Montmollin, Montmollin Estate - 200 V, 200 Vario

We can save ourselves having to buy another tractor.

Premium organic wines: a visit to the Montmollin Estate

“Can't you slow down a little? I can't get a good picture!” Drive slower? That's not an option for Arnaud Schaer, Vineyard Manager at the Montmollin Estate.

We are in the heart of the Neuchâtel wine-growing region on a vineyard plot with lake view. Arnaud uses the coolness of the early morning to mechanically destroy the weeds with his Fendt 210 V Vario and wanted to take this opportunity to show us what this tractor can do. With about 47 ha and a production of around 300,000 litres per year, Domaine de Montmollin is one of the region's biggest wine producers. The de Montmollin family began its wine-growing venture at the beginning of the 17th century and has handed it down through the generations ever since.

Courage plus passion = success

Since 2017, the estate has been run by Rachel Billeter-de Montmollin and her brother Benoit, a dynamic and convincing duo. Without going against the traditions of the company, Rachel and Benoit have set a decisive emphasis on the further development of the estate. All the wines that have been produced since 2007 bear the Swiss organic seal. Jean-Michel, who previously ran the estate, had already set foot in this direction 20 years earlier. However, it was soon slowed down by the damage caused by mildew. Back in his apprenticeship, Benoit was encouraged by his father to deal with various working and cultivation methods. Out of his passion for viticulture and with a dose of courage, he decided in 2011 to cultivate part of the plots following the principles of biodynamic agriculture. Thanks to new techniques and methods, the experiment was a success, and in 2015 they could stop using herbicides altogether. Despite unfavourable weather conditions, the harvest the following year was overwhelmingly good – a seal of approval for switching completely to organic farming.

Today, Benoit notes that his employees are more relaxed and motivated. “The continuous testing of new processes, many of which are part of Demeter specifications, and our exchanges with other organic winemakers have revived our profession. We are at a very interesting stage where the will to progress and succeed is more important than competition.”

Fendt meets every wine-growing requirement

By adopting conventional treatment methods, the estate managers turned to mechanical solutions. The Fendt tractors, which the de Montmollins brought to Neuchâtel in 1998, once again proved themselves as ideal. The innovative, technical solutions of Fendt for wine-growers left an instant impression on the de Montmollins. Fendt was one of the first manufacturers of conventional tractors in this specialist sector, and stood up well against other suppliers who originally produced grape harvesting machines, especially in terms of the technology rating.

A particular winning feature was the hydraulic control on the Fendt. The resulting power gained allows even the small Varios to do two things at once; mowing while cutting or weeding while mowing, for example. It's an enormous time saver for the winegrower. Permanently locking in the transmission power, the stepless drive is another clear advantage, especially on steep slopes. Today, the estate's fleet includes six Fendt tractors, and it's not just the efficiency that speaks for Fendt. Performance also played a decisive role in the choice of brand. “These tractors can carry out all the wine-growing work as well as the usual transport tasks. So, we can save ourselves having to buy a conventional farm tractor,” explains Rachel, co-executive director of the company and experienced business economist. Nearing the end of our visit, Benoit mentions the enthusiasm of his employees: Spending less and less time among the vines himself, he trusts his vineyard managers, both real Fendt fans. The fun of a well-functioning machine undoubtedly has an impact on the motivation of the employees. And when transporting the harvest to the cellar and the wine to the bottling hall, the drivers appreciate the comfort of all the ergonomic details.

What do Rachel and Benoit de Montmollin dream of going forward? Well, they hope to improve the conditions for the direct sale of their wines, which have already received many awards. They also want their children to share their passion for wine at some point and ensure the continuity of the family business. As far as the machines are concerned, she naturally dreams of an electric tractor with reduced noise and emissions!

The Montmollin Estate in numbers

  • 17 permanent employees, split into two vineyard teams for the cellar and administration
  • 10 seasonal workers for summer work, like binding
  • 20 seasonal workers during the harvest
  • 6 Fendt tractors: Fendt 260 VA, Fendt 270 VA, Fendt 208 VA, Fendt 209 Vario, Fendt 211 V Vario, Fendt 210 V Vario
  • 12 grape varieties