As Winegrowers, we must first learn from nature …
Chronicle of a terroir
2005 to 2008, the four first vintages of Exception. The wine, made from those freshly cleared hillsides that had been cultivated for the first time in a century, was very, very good, EXCEPTION-al, and, we were in no doubt, ETERNAL.
But then after 2009 the winning streak of our great vintages came to an end. It is clear that Exception 2010, 2011 and 2012 will never equal the immense vintages that preceded them.
It was a difficult moment, when we were plagued with doubt, to find ourselves in this situation after believing that we had gained entrance to the exclusive circle of great terroir wines !
It became vital to change our methods… for our soils, our terroir, our wines, and our mental health !!
Chemistry, a false friend
The first lesson is that a superb terroir alone is not enough. Most probably our interventions, over barely a decade, had destroyed some of the elements of our new “super terroir”.
The weight of this terrible realization incited us to seek the advice of others who had explored alternative methods, and the conclusion was swift and irrefutable. We were in a vicious circle: chemical weedkillers created lifeless soils that were subject to erosion, resulting in malnourished, unhealthy vines that had to be treated with curative products. These created an ever-growing physiological imbalance requiring more and more chemical products. Unsound grapes and poor juice meant the use of industrial products and yeasts in the cellar to mask their imperfections …
Seeing the light
We continued to work, to observe, to ponder… in the vines but also through research… in books, manuals, and by consulting fellow winemakers. In short, we changed the way we work. Between all the different information, it took us a while to grasp the vast world of living matter, that we breathe in and walk upon every day in total ignorance. A world in which earthworms, bacteria, fungi, and mycorrhizae render elements of the soil available to the plant, through which it finds its balance and creates its auto-defense mechanisms …
A good reason to continue
Year after year, understanding these mechanisms and this phenomenal infrastructure of living matter whose influence is so much more powerful and beneficial than all the synthetic chemicals in the world became, if not an addiction, a great reason to continue. Respect for life has obliged us to make choices. Between making things better and working to earn more, there’s no contest !
2011 … living soils
The end of chemical herbicides
2011, we decided to adopt superficial raking and mowing in all of our vines.
The experience acquired over the previous ten years on the “new” hillsides of La Savoyade showed us that rested soils, soils that have never seen chemical herbicides, in other words healthy, natural, living soils, can produce wines of great complexity. But it only takes a few years of treating the soils with chemicals to destroy that completely.
That is both the strength and the fragility of living matter. This chain of life that, starting from the greatest available source of energy on earth – photosynthesis – can build a whole subterranean ecosystem from vegetation growing above ground which in its turn nourishes the vines. It is a source of nutrition that contains all the diversity and therefore all the uniqueness of the soil in that particular place. This natural mechanism, that requires us just to let these invisible “creatures” do their work, opens almost infinite perspectives on the potential singularity and energy of a wine.
2013 … parcel selections
In 2013, it seemed evident to us that parcel selection was the natural next step after enabling life in the soils. And so we produced our first two parcel selection wines: Argile sur Schiste and Les Salins.
The idea behind parcel selection …
When authenticity opposes typicity .
Making wine of a certain type is a received idea adopted by appellation wines with their specifications charters that steer them towards a standard aroma and taste for each wine. And in endeavoring to maintain that standard taste numerous winemakers turn to artificial products and methods.
That is not making authentic wines, that are a true reflection of their place of origin. Authentic wines are made by harnessing natural phenomena that possess a complexity that the chemistry of typicity cannot reproduce.
2012 – 2016 … our time in the wilderness !
A third less grapes !
Five long years of transformation … It’s clear that the notions of quantity and volume are very often directly opposed to those of quality, especially in relation to wine. But a certain basic level of harvest is nevertheless necessary if the estate is to be sustainable.
Vines in the course of recovery, deprived of their chemical life-support system, have to readapt. Before becoming an ally in the auto-fertility of the soils (carbon capture), grass between the vines is at first a direct competitor for nitrogen, resulting in a spectacular drop in production. For us, this meant a whole third less good grapes!
Balance between the different biomasses, soil bacteria, earthworms, and rhizospheres only begins to be attained after four or five years, in the best of cases. We had to wait for the 2017 harvest before we saw results and were able to cellar some wine for ageing.
2020 … organic certification AB
The stamp of approval !
All our red wines from the 2020 vintage are certified organic.
It’s always good to see a little AB stamp on the label !