Despite the region’s less than amenable weather conditions, the organic logo is appearing on more and more bottles from the vineyards of Gironde. Great news!
Although still in the minority in France, organic wine production is gaining ground. The proportion of land used for wine-growing that is farmed organically has increased from barely 1% in the early 2000s to around 15% today. And that number is growing year on year! Though certain regions have been at the forefront of the rise of organic wine, appellations throughout France are now taking advantage of the trend.
A challenging climate
What about the Bordeaux vineyards, with their reputation for being conservative? Before answering this question, it is helpful to point out that not all wine-growing regions are equal when it comes to organic. It is obviously easier to take an organic approach in a fairly dry region with plenty of sunshine, than in an oceanic climate where growers have to contend with diseases that thrive on humidity, such as mildew. In this respect, the vineyards along the Atlantic coast, from Muscadet to Bordeaux and Irouléguy, which receive a generous amount of rainfall, are at somewhat of a disadvantage! Nonetheless they, like others, are part of a marked trend towards more virtuous practices, be it in the vineyard or in the cellar.
Organic at every stage
Like in other regions, the 80s, 90s and early 2000s were a pioneer era in Bordeaux, characterised by a few avant-garde names who went against the very dominant model of conventional viticulture. Shall I name a few? How about Château Falfas in Bourgeais, Paul Barre in Fronsac, Château Le Puy in Francs Côtes-de-Bordeaux, or Château Gombaud Guillot in Pomerol. They must have inspired many others, because the time when organic was the preserve of a very small handful of winegrowers is well and truly over. Better still, organic farming is making advances on every front in Gironde. Initially the domain of “small” estates run by artisan producers, the organic movement has now crossed over to the great châteaux and classified crus. A perfect example is the Médoc region, where, in the Margaux appellation among others, the Palmer, Durfort Vivens and Ferrière châteaux have now taken the path long trodden by more modest estates such as Clos du Jaugueyron or Closeries des Moussis.
Just a question of money?
Organic wines certainly seem to be selling and owners are taking notice. But to reduce everyone’s motivation to pure commercial opportunism would be to overlook the profound considerations that go with converting a vineyard to organic. Not only that; many owners go a step further by embracing biodynamics, which is even more rigorous. And for the most part, they believe organic is not only good for the environment but also for their wines. Believe it: Bordeaux loves organic!
Taste France Magazine's organic picks
Clos Puy Arnaud - Castillon-Côtes-de-Bordeaux - "Les Ormeaux" 2016
Producers in this area have long taken a biodynamic approach. The result? Vibrant, fluid, elegant, unpretentious wines, just like this blend.
Clos du Jaugueyron - Haut-Médoc - 2017
In Haut-Médoc and the Margaux appellation, Michel Théron stays true to the grape to create outstanding wines which impress with their freshness, depth, and balance. It’s like biting into the fruit and the terroir!
Clos du Mounat - Côtes de Bourg - “Sans pour sens” 2018
No added sulphites, no barrels, 100% grapes, 100% Merlot, 100% indigenous yeasts… this is Bordeaux as nature intended. Softness, fruit, more fruit, and the slightest hint of spicy and chocolatey notes.
Château Le Puy - Francs Côtes-de-Bordeaux - "Emilien" 2018
Merlot dominates in this vintage from a celebrated château in the world of biodynamics. Indulgence, definition and finesse on the palate, with key notes of red fruit or undergrowth. This wine is very good in its youth and also ages very well.