The importance of avoiding pesticides and herbicides is clear in the wine industry. However, only around 23 percent of most vineyards in Bordeaux can call themselves Biodynamic, Organic, or in conversion (although I’ve read up to 60 percent elsewhere). Some are in the process of actively working towards this goal or trying to use the least possible, which is the HAV3 classification. Wines from the last 100 years generally have traces of all the chemicals used, soils retaining the chemicals for decades after usage is stopped.
If finding these sorts of wines is important to you, please use these resources and try to visit these properties in Saint Emilion. This list is non-exhaustive.
What are the two major issues in Bordeaux vineyards? Mildew and moths. There exists a new type of protection from the moths, a pheromone that is released to keep the male and female moths from finding each other, called ‘sexual frustration’. Mildew is a whole other thing, which is very common in SW France and was particularly bad in the Spring of 2023.
Biodynamic farming is a relatively new concept but also the predecessor to organic farming, not only used in winemaking. Some of the concepts can sound a bit far out the first time, but keep in mind that the concepts started as a spiritual way of living first. It is working the closet to nature, the relationship between man and Earth. Founded in 1924 by Austrian Rudolf Steiner. Imagine thinking of the whole of the natural environment in which you are growing as a preventative measure from disease. This includes the soil and plants, insects and birds, animals and their symbiotic relationships. It is important for biodynamic farmers to have some land dedicated to non-farming plants and animals to keep a healthy balance. Biodiversity is used to protect, in this case, the vines from too much wind, humidity and potentially harmful insects. 1,39% of Bordeaux vineyards are biodynamic1 (in 2021).
Organic farming in France is more lenient than biodynamic farming, which is why it requires more years of practice to be able to call your vineyard ‘organic’. This is a matter of treating your vines for any issues with natural substances, the solutions do not need to be found on your property. Are there some vineyards which could be considered but are labelled as such, of course, as certification is expensive. France is mentioned as the number one producer of organic vines in the world, which is not completely surprising.2 However, this is then debatable, considering the size of the organic Spanish production3 and still only accounts for around nine percent of all vineyards in Bordeaux4.
Regardless, we are on the right path. Bordeaux was considered a black zone for herbicide and pesticide use, with childhood cancer rates 400% higher in comparison to the rest of France, so this is an important topic. Napa is currently discovering this as well.
HVE distinction is offered to vineyards that are making an effort,5 ‘Haute Valeur Environnementale’, to find alternatives (when possible) to chemicals. This ranges from 1-3, with HVE3 requiring results from the chateau efforts. HVE and organic vineyards are allowed to use bouillie bordelaise6, which is a copper sulfate spray to prevent mildew. You’ll see leaves with a green/blue tint in areas where this has been used.
As of November 2023, the EU has decided to take another ten years to end the use of glyphosate. France abstained from voting.7 This doesn’t mean Macron won’t follow through with the ban, we will have to see.
Some of the Oldest Biodynamic or Organic Vineyards in Saint Emilion
Please be sure to book your appointment in advance and arrive on time to avoid any issues.
Chateau Coutet is the benchmark, having never used herbicides or pesticides in the history of their multigenerational chateau. Located across the road from Angelus, this is a great visit for families and groups as well. As the increased use of chemicals in farming occurred after WWII, the three spinsters running Chateau Coutet decided against this and are responsible for keeping the authenticity of this incredible vineyard and its wines alive. A wonderful history, and the oldest bottle of uncorked wine found in Saint Emilion only add to the allure / http://chateau-coutet.com/ / Lieu-dit de Coutet, 33330 Saint-Emilion / 05 57 74 43 21
Chateau Meylet has been biodynamic for nearly 50 years, which makes them one of the first in the AOC to try this methodology. Very small property of under 2 hectares / Château Meylet – Saint-Emilion – Vin bio, biodynamique (chateau-meylet.com) / La Gomerie, 33330 SAINT-ÉMILION / firstname.lastname@example.org / 06 87 84 27 26
Chateau Guadet is a father and son managed property who are incredibly involved in Saint Emilion. Easy to get to as it is in the center of the village, you can make this visit on your own and enjoy the caves, history, and of course wines! They offer a great introduction to biodynamic winemaking. They do not had a waiting area, so please do not arrive too early / Accueil | Château Guadet (chateauguadet.fr) / 42 rue Guadet, 33330 Saint-Emilion
Many of the female winemakers in Saint Emilion are organic or biodynamic as well Female Winemakers in Saint Emilion – Aquitaine Travel Guide
READ MORE :
- Saint-Émilion Grand Cru : la biodynamie gagne du terrain (sudouest.fr) ↩︎
- Quels sont les chiffres du bio en 2021 ? | Ministère de l’Agriculture et de la Souveraineté alimentaire ↩︎
- En 2023, la France aura le 2ème plus grand vignoble bio du monde | bioaddict.fr ↩︎
- The Challenges of Going Organic and Biodynamic in Bordeaux | SevenFifty Daily ↩︎
- En 2019, près de 1 400 vignobles sont certifiés Haute valeur environnementale (HVE) | Ministère de l’Agriculture et de la Souveraineté alimentaire ↩︎
- Qu’est-ce que la bouillie bordelaise ? Comment l’utiliser au jardin ? (lemonde.fr) ↩︎
- EU Commission to prolong use of glyphosate for 10 years after states fail to agree (lemonde.fr)