Bordeaux wineries work collegiately to drive sustainability

04 May, 2021

Three organic wine producers in Bordeaux have joined forces in a bid to promote a sustainable future for the region.

Châteaux Fourcas Hosten, Jean Faure and de La Dauphine are at the forefront of the organic and biodynamic revolution taking place in Bordeaux.

All three producers are 100% certified organic, and they are working collegiately to reduce their carbon footprints, cut down on machine use and increase biodiversity within the vineyards.

Agricultural engineer David Pernet of Sovivins has advised de La Dauphine and Fourcas Hosten on sustainability issues. They are sharing ideas with Jean Faure viticultural consultant Paul-Marie Morillon, as each producer aims to better understand and work with the climate.

Pernet is encouraged to see so many chateaux in the region convert to organic, sustainable winemaking, and he believes the trend will accelerate in the years ahead.

“According to the CIVB, there are nearly 800 certified organic producers and over 60 biodynamic producers in Bordeaux,” he said. “This has been a growing trend over the last few years and bodes well for the future of the region.

“Over 13% of the vineyard surface area in Bordeaux is now organic, and this figure will go up over the next few years, but there are two big challenges.

“Bordeaux experiences very wet springs and some of the wettest conditions in France, so it’s not the easiest place to be organic. This is a real challenge and we have to be honest about that.”

Organic and biodynamic winemaking can help producers reduce the alcohol levels in the wines as the climate warms. The producers are also ramping up their focus on Cabernet Franc – a late-ripening variety – to adapt to the changing weather.

When asked how commercially viable organic, sustainable winemaking is in Bordeaux, Pernet told Drinks International: “Cost is an issue. In order to be able to afford to be organic, you have to sell your wines at a certain price, as organic wines are more expensive to produce.

“Some wineries in the region price their wines too low to be able to be organic. For the region to grow its organic area, the cost of the wines will be key.”

At Chateau Fourcas Hosten, a vast replanting programme has been taking place over the past decade, and it will continue until 2025. A weather station was installed in the middle of the vineyard in July 2018 in an effort to better understand and work with the climate.

Earlier this year, a flock of ewes has arrived to live amongst the vines and provide natural weed control. This eco-grazing activity will be the focus of a study during a trial year, which will look at the impact of reduction in machine use and improvement of the soil’s natural porosity through the action of the ewe’s feet and their excretions.

Changes in the biodiversity of the vineyard and in the wellbeing of the human team through contact with the animals will be analysed.

Since the adoption of organic practices at Château Fourcas Hosten in 2012, infusions of herbs such as yarrow, nettle, horsetail, camomile, and comfrey have been used to stimulate the vines’ defence mechanisms and to help them grow in the best possible conditions. A mixed Guyot vine pruning technique is used.

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