After a visit to the wine cellars of Burgundy and Alsace, you'll probably end up believing that organic and biodynamic culture is a common part of the French agricultural landscape. In reality, fewer than 5000 producers hold organic certification and among these, 500 are committed to respecting the principles of biodynamics. 15 of them are in Bordeaux. A marginal climate, large estates and risk-averse landowners, these are the reasons often cited to justify the low level of adherence to this agriculture, which promotes harmony between the vineyard and its environment.
Enjoy organic wines from Bordeaux
The organic farming of wine is characterized by 3 essential points: The estate must not use GMOs, must recycle organic matter and must be based on preventive methods. Today, more and more winemakers decide to go organic wine using organic farming. Château Guiraud in Sauternes shows you its new method of biodynamic production, while making you enjoy a tasting of organic wine at the end of the visit.
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!
Graves and Sauternes
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. During summer picnics can be organized under the lime trees overlooking the estate. At Château Climens in Barsac, a drying room stores plants such as nettle and chamomile until they are ready to be added to infusions and sprayed on vines to protect them from disease. A recent adopter of wine tourism, visitors are allowed access to this fragrant room during tours before a tasting of their famous sweet wine.
On the right bank of the Garonne
However, the greatest concentration of biodynamic wine estates in Bordeaux is to be found on the right bank of the Garonne, perhaps due in part to smaller–sized, family-run estates.
Viticulture at Château Falfasin the Côtes de Bourg was always going to be biased towards creating healthy soil and balanced vines as the father of owner Véronique Cochran, was the man credited with having introduced biodynamic theories into French wine making, via his interpretation of the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. Another leading proponent is found in the Côtes de Castillon at Clos Puy Arnaud. Here Thierry Valet employs the strange practice of burying of a silica-filled cow horn in summer, the ground remains of which are later mixed with water and sprayed on vines later to boost their vitality. Alain Moueix of châteaux Mazeyres and Fonroque is another key advocate who believes that plants are sensitive to cosmic movement and he adapts his work in the vineyard to the lunar cycle. Visits at all properties are worthwhile and by appointment only.
Recent years have also seen an increase in the number of Médoc estates moving in this direction, the most obvious signs of which have been more animals in the vineyards.
It is not unusual to spot horses and donkeys during a tour ofPontet-Canet, and the estate also has its own cows providing the manure required to fertilize the vines. Other châteaux such as Palmer have used sheep in winter to eat cover crop and chickens to reduce the caterpillar population. As off-beat as these developments may sound, even the most skeptical visitor to these properties cannot help but be excited by the passion of the producers and the undisputable quality of the wines.