Organic Wines and Soil at Chateau Tour des Gendres.
Each producer DiscoverVin visited during our recent trip to the South-West of France was eager to show us their vineyard and particularly their soil. Soil samples were on display in their offices, in their tasting rooms, and of course in the vineyard. Organic wines are produced from organic viticulture and soil quality is crucial to organic viticulture.
Organic approaches to viticulture mean the complete absence of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in the vineyard and the winery. In America organic wines must not contain sulfites, but French producers can still use small amounts of sulfur to prevent oxidation.
Biodynamic wine is 100% organic, but the grower has taken further steps such as making their own compost and sprays following concepts originated by the 20th century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The cycle of the planets and stars determine when they undertake different procedures.
Luc de Conti from Chateau Tour des Gendres adopted organic practices in his vineyards in 1994. Chateau Tour des Gendres has been a certified organic producer since 2005. He uses various strategies to organically nurture and improve his soil, his vines and hence his wines. Natural composting promotes nutrient development in the soil rather than using fertilizers or other chemical treatments. Companion planting can promote biodiversity and help the soil. Planting oats or phacelia, crops with high root penetration, promotes soil aeration and is beneficial for the roots of the vines. Deep-rooted vines are healthier and prosper as the soil is cooler, the roots are closer to the minerals in the bedrock and hence the fruit can more fully reveal the character of the soil.
Biodiversity in the soil leads to biodiversity in the vineyard. Soil insects, worms, rodents and birds live in the Chateau Tour des Gendres vineyard. As the graze, touch and land on the grape berries they deposit natural yeast, the true signature of the soil.
The wines of Chateau Tour des Gendres have changed over time, improved and changed as organic practices have improved the soil, the health of the vines and the biodiversity of the vineyard. Stonger, healthier vines means fruit that ripens to its full potential. The alcohol content of the wines has lowered – the Chateau Tour des Gendres Rouge at 12.5% alcohol is much lower than many Australian blends of the same grapes. The natural acidity of the wine has increased. Tannins are ripe and soft. The wines reflect the mineral character of the soil and flavours more fully reflect the terroir.
For Vintages from 2009 Chateau Tour des Gendres are
permitted to use the Agence Biologique logo ( AB) to signify they meet the French governmnet requirements for organic agriculutre.
Chateau Tour des Gendres leads the way in organic viticulture. With time more producers, both in France and here in Australia have adopted organic practices. The results are showing through in wines with quality and flavour. Julie Harding MW writing about organic and biodynamic wines at the 2008 London International Wine Trade Fair said “The overall quality level was high but what struck me most was the depth of flavour in so many wines; not necessarily concentration but an integrity and ‘naturalness’ of expression, the sort of flavours and textures I would compare with clothes made from natural fibres such as linen, wool, silk, even leather. Lots of character and much pleasure.”