Bio / Organic / Natural

The practice of biodynamics in viticulture (grape growing) has become popular in recent years in several regions of France. A number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers have converted recently to biodynamic practices. There are currently more than 450 biodynamic wine producers worldwide. Currently, for a wine to be labelled "biodynamic" it has to meet the stringent standards laid down by the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body.

Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who gave his now famous Agriculture Course in 1924, presaging much of the organic movement. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual and practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which requires understanding what is ecological, energetic and spiritual in nature. Biodynamic agriculture also incorporates astrological influences. Rudolf Steiner believed that much as the moon affects the tides, so it affects planting and harvesting phases.

As a practical method of farming, biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but enhanced with ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system.

Organic agriculture could be regarded as a first stage in the process of becoming biodynamic, concentrating on growing without chemical intervention and without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some farmers and viticulturalists will be content to remain at this stage, while others chose to take the full biodynamic path.

Biodynamics is a holistic practice whereby all things are considered living inter-related systems - animals, plants and the solar system. Biodynamic practices create healthier plants and heal the earth by replenishing the soil and adding vitality to the soil, plants and livestock.

Biodynamic farming methods rejuvenate the soil through human attention and careful observation of nature's rhythms. The main difference between organic and biodynamic farming on the one hand and conventional agriculture on the other is that biodynamic farming in particular espouses principles that impart vitality to the soil, plants and livestock, whereas conventional farming risks impairment of the soil.

Domaine Jean-Yves Peron

Jean-Yves Peron is a young artisan patiently reviving ancient, almost forgotten high-altitude vineyards in the French Alps, near Albertville. After studying oenology in Bordeaux, he trained with natural winemakers Thierry Allemand and Jean-Louis Grippt in the Rhone Valley and Bruno Schueller in Alsace. 

Started in 2004, he works with multiple steeply terraced micro-parcels (3ha) of 115-130 year old Jacquere and Mondeuse vines, planted to friable mica-schist soils; his oldest parcels were planted in 1893, and have not seen phylloxera. The vines are high density (10,000/ha), single-staked gobelet, very low to the ground and very low-yielding; their uniform southern exposure gives them the sun's full benefit, as the mica-schist soil warms up in spring and enables to obtain a very good phenolic maturity. Organic farming, indegenous yeasts, non-interventionist winemaking, avoidance of filtering and fining and use of little or no sulphur makes these natural wines of the first rank.

For those French speakers: click here for a YouTube video with Jean-Yves

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  • AOC Vin de France La Petite Robe (Jacquere)
  • AOC Vin de France Roche Blanche (Jacquere)
  • AOC Vin de France Les Barrieux (Jacquere)
  • AOC Vin de France Grande Journee (Altesse)
  • VDP d'Allobrogie Champ Levat (Mondeuse)
  • VDP d'Allobrogie Champ Levat (Mondeuse)
  • VDP d'Allobrogie Cote Pelee (Mondeuse)
  • VDP d'Allobrogie Cote Pelee (Mondeuse)

Chateau Gigognan

www.gigognan.fr

Chateau Gigognan falls feet first into this dichotomy. The Chateau belonged to the Jesuit community and is built atop the foundation of a centuries-old monastery, yet has received an entirely modern face-lift that any architect could appreciate. Some of the vineyards are over one hundred years old, yet the vines are given every modern convenience in a hands-on organic and biodynamic way.

International flair and modern winemaking techniques will soon become as familiar as the rocky soils in the vineyards. Creativity, commitment, tradition and polish-traits that can all be found in abundance at Chateau Gigognan

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Domaine Marcel Richaud

Cairanne produces many of the best wines made in the vast Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages. Situated atop a range of low hills, with perfect exposure, the elevation ensures slightly cooler temperatures than on the Plan de Dieu, (as the plain is known), where the summer heat is usually extreme.

Marcel Richaud has been a pioneer in terms of using a natural way of winemaking in Cairanne terroir. Marcel tends 40 hectares of vines and vinifies Mourvedre, Grenache, Shiraz grapes following an organic process for 30 years (production is certified Biologique by Ecocert). The mix of grape varieties is one of the reasons why Richaud’s wines have such great balance and finesse. Mourvèdre especially plays an important role in toning down the alcohol level that Grenache easily reaches in a warm year: it requires more sun and later picking, and in Cairanne, it is at the northern edge of its growing region.

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Domaine Natacha Chave - Aléofane

At the age of 28, Natacha Chave started her own “domain” from scratch in 2004, buying 1.5 hectares of vines in St Joseph before adding another 6.5 hectares of Crozes-Hermitage in 2007.

Natacha Chave is talking about Aléofane: It's an island imagined by John MacMillan Brown in his book, Riallaro, the Archipelago of Exiles. "I took this literary reference to name the wine I wanted to make. The description corresponded to the controversy about wine in our society. It's a product shared with conviviality but obeys strict rules. In the city of Aléofane, fermented drinks are considered as diabolic and rare goods but possessing healing properties."


  • AOC St Joseph "Aléofane" (Shiraz)
  • AOC Crozes Hermitage "Aléofane" (Shiraz)
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Domaine des Huards

www.domainedeshuards.com

Winemakers since 1846, its estate is conducted under organic and biodynamic agricultural practices. Locted in Cour-Cheverny, between the Loire and Sologne regions.

"Our goal is to propose wines that are natural and that generate a maximum amount of enjoymnet... We are highly dedicated in caring for our vines as well as the biological equalibrium of the soils. We do not use any chemical products. In the winery, the fermentation process is done using natural yeasts; a part from the low dose of sulphites; no other oenological product is used throughout the winemaking procedure. We look to find the expression closest to the vintages' particularities as well as those belonging to our terroir. We use traditional methods along with modern equipment to work the wine while maintaining the respect of our environment and the integrity of our wines." Jocelyne & Michel Gendrier

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Domaine du Mortier

www.boisard-fils.com

St Nicolas de Bourgueil is a fairly young vineyard, brothers Fabien and Cyril Boisard having established it in 1996. They have about 9 hectares of vines to their name, with a mix of sand and gravel typical of St Nicolas de Bourgueil terroirs, although there are also vines planted on the more highly regarded clay-limestone soils of the region. The vines, which are solely Cabernet Franc, are all worked by hand: this includes soil management by a combination of grassing over and ploughing, and an occasional application of biodynamic compost. The brothers have solid organic and biodynamic credentials, having certification from “Nature et Progrès”, one of the longest-established bodies overseeing and certifying organic agriculture in France, and from Ecocert. 

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Domaine Ballorin & F

 

Gilles gave up his day job in 2003 and went to learn the craft of wine production in Dijon and Beaune. He and and his wife Fabienne are behind this new and 100% biodynamically-farmed domaine that began with the 2005 vintage and, already they are carving out a great reputation for themselves.

Allen Meadows of Burghound says, “While Gilles professes to want a parcel or two of premier cru to work with, he freely admits that he’s already been lucky with the vineyards… this is an exciting source of high quality, value oriented wines”.

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Domaine Singla

www.domainesingla.com

Laurent de Besombes, half-way through his law studies, realised that his real interest and passion was wine, and since 2001 has managed the family vineyard. He decided to put aside the 25 best hectares in order to dedicate the most promising soils and vines for developing Domaine Singla wines. The process has also involved replacing all synthetic pesticides with natural controls, as well as carrying out short pruning and ‘green harvesting’. The vines are at their best when yielding 15 to 20hL per hectare, so the objective is to produce less wine but of higher quality, each plot being vinified separately to secure the distinctive elements of the terroir.

Winemaker: Laurent de Besombes Singla

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Chateau de Vaux

www.chateaudevaux.com

This vineyard has an extraordinary potential afforded by its geographic situation where it covers 5.5 hectares of this unique part of the French Moselle regional appellation, what the French call their region of ‘wines of the East’. A wide range of grapes such as Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Noir are represented... appropriate for the diverse types of soils that are a feature of this unique region.

Winemaker: Norbert Molozay

Norbert Molozay is a « flying winemaker », a man who has worked in vineyards around the globe : in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, as well as the French wine regions of Burgundy, Beaujolais, Alsace and Languedoc. As a result, he has acquired unparalleled experience.

Château de Vaux

Domaine Mittnacht Freres (Biodynamic)

“Marc and Christophe Mittnacht have employed high quality biodynamic processes since 1999. They produce dense style wines with great finesse. “The Gewurztraminer Osterberg is ample and spicy while the Riesling Rosacker 2007 is mineral and fruity”, states the GAULTMILLAU Guide.

The biodynamic growing methods make for a calm and stable vine that possesses a natural resistance to pests. A vine in harmony with its surrounds will have a moderate yield of mature fruit that results in a must which offers balance and depth. These two virtues characterize all wines from Mittnacht Frères. Each wine forms a complete unity that always has something extra to offer.

Winemaker: Christophe Mittnacht

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Philippe Gilbert (Biodynamic)

 

Philippe Gilbert was a dramaturg, producing and also writing plays for the theatre. Nevertheless, he is very much a vigneron, having returned to take over the direction of his family estate located in the hamlet of Faucards in the midst of the Menetou-Salon appellation.

Having travelled the world and explored the intellectual side of the arts, Philippe still felt the pull of the soils that his father worked for many years. Philippe's return reinvigorated this estate, one of the largest in the appellation with 27ha certified as organic and Philippe worked with all the biodynamic growing principles.

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