Friday, July 27, 2018

Roederer: In Praise of Biodynamic Viticulture

I was pleasantly surprised today to see Eric Asimov's piece in the New York Times on Roederer's organic and biodynamic trials. (I could easily have missed that big part of this story, because the title of the article was about climate change.) But of course, biodynamic and organic farming fits into climate change, albeit in numerous contexts. Mitigation is the context here, but it seems to result in better wines, according to Roederer's experts.

Here are some of the illuminating excerpts:
"He (at Roederer) wanted the vines to have a much deeper root system that plunged into the bedrock of chalky limestone and clay; he believed that would help to protect against heat and drought while better expressing the character of the vineyard. To accomplish this, he eliminated the use of herbicides and fertilizers, developed techniques for training the roots downward and began trials for both organic and biodynamic viticulture...

Mr. Lécaillon adapted the techniques for Roederer and for years ran experiments farming some blocks biodynamically and some organically. Each year, Mr. Lécaillon and his team tasted the results blind, then compared.

After four or five years we were 100 percent able to identify the wines from biodynamic soils," he said. "More intensity, more clarity of fruit, a velvety texture and a link between fruit and acidity. "It's a very intelligent way of farming," he said. "I don't understand Steiner at all, but I see the results." 

Nonetheless he said some years his team preferred the wines farmed organically. He said organic farming produced fleshier wines, while biodynamics gave 'more pixels.'"

I wonder how the organic farming was being done (i.e. compost, no or low till, etc.) as there are many factors aside from using less toxic materials that could contribute to the difference in taste. 
For those of you wondering about Roederer here in Mendocino following the French example, yes, there are some parallels. But only about 1/4 to 1/3 of Roederer's vines in Mendocino are farmed organically. About 17 acres down the road at Roederer's Domaine Anderson (still wines only) are certified Biodynamic (and a few more are organic).
I, for one, cannot wait to taste some biodynamic Cristal if that's a wine that will be released.
For more on the Biodynamic trends in Champagne, read Monty Waldin's 2016 article published in UK or check out Caroline Henry's fabulous book Terroir Champagne which is a guide to organic and biodynamic wines from Champagne. Filled with stories from "the little guys."

Valentin de Sousa at IBWC 2018

I should also mention that we had one Biodynamic (and Demeter certified BD) Champagne grower at the International Biodynamic Wine Conference - Champagne de Sousa - and those wines were outstanding. They make 8,300 cases from their 12 acres of vines; those are imported in the U.S. by Charles Neal Selections. The entry level bubbly runs $40; the Grand Cru (Blanc de Blanc) $45.
My favorite was their Mycorhize. (Tech sheet here).

It comes from a tiny plot that is plowed by horse.


@LouisRoederer tweet today (August 2, 2018)

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