Gone are the days when visiting an organic or biodynamic wine estate in the Bordeaux region was a novelty. Factors such as a marginal, humid climate, sizable estates and risk-averse owners meant that many previously, châteaux were dissuaded from adopting an environmentally harmonious approach to their vineyards.
Sightings of draft horses plowing the earth and sheep munching on weeds around vines are becoming more common however, as the number of Bordeaux estates which have been awarded biodynamic certification has doubled to over30 in the past few years, and the size of the region where organic farming is practiced grew to almost 8,000ha in 2017. Luckily for the vineyard workers and the vines themselves, these trends seem set to continue and the good news for tourists is that many organic and biodynamic estates are open for visits, which they use as an opportunity to enthusiastically defend their approach!
Biodynamic wineries at less than twenty minutes from Bordeaux
South of Bordeaux city, the oxen which are used to plow and help fertilize the soils of Château Pape Clément contrast with the bees found swarming in the vineyards, both of which play a role in improving the vineyards. Initiatives such as “When art meets vines” at nearby Château Smith Haut Lafitte combine artwork with biodiversity, as visitors can learn about the lifecycle of the vines whilst admiring outdoor sculptures.
In the Médoc many wineries moved towards more environmentally harmonious farming
Whereas a walk in the gravelly vineyards is a key part of any visit to the Médoc, those estates which have moved towards more environmentally harmonious farming are understandably keen to share details of their methods.
Time spent amongst the vines during a visit to Chateau Palmer includes an explanation of how chickens have successfully reduced the troublesome caterpillar population. The next-door estates of Gonzague and Claire Lurton which also represent part of the 20% converted in organic or biodynamic farming in the Margaux area, use more modern methods, such as drones to keep a closer eye on vines. Both winemakers profess an improvement in the quality of the wines from châteaux Dufort-Vivens and Ferrière since they stopped using chemicals.
On Sauternes-Barsac side...
At Château Climens in Barsac, a tisanerie room stores dried plants such as nettle and chamomile until they are ready to be added to infusions and sprayed on vines to fortify them against disease. Visitors are allowed access to this fragrant room before a tasting of the famous sweet wines.
Not all the châteaux are classified growths however some of the better known rank amongst the best of their respective appellations.Château Guiraud in Sauternes outlines their organic farming methods as a central part of their tours.
Features such as insect hotels and a vegetable patch which is home to over 170 different types of tomato, foster a desirable biodiversity in the vineyards.
The greatest concentration of biodynamic wine estates in Bordeaux is to be found on the right bank of the Garonne
This concentration is due to smaller–sized, family-run estates. Leading proponents such as Alain Moueix of châteaux Mazeyres and Fonroque believes that plants are sensitive to cosmic movement and he adapts his work in the vineyard to the lunar cycle. As off-beat as these ideas may sound, even the most skeptical of visitor to these properties cannot help but be excited by the passion of the producers and the undisputable quality of the wines.