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As we know, few producers in the classic appellations of Bordeaux are practicing organic or biodynamic farming, in stark contrast with many of their neighboring producers of the "Côtes de Bordeaux" (see our prior article published a few days ago) or producers in other French regions such as the Loire valley. Happily, however, more and more growers in these classic appellations of Bordeaux are converting to organic or biodynamic farming and becoming certified, as illustrated by Château Latour, Château Pontet-Canet and Château Guiraud.
At Chambers Street Wines, we are proud to showcase a selection of winemakers who have been organically or biodynamically farming for many years with a philosophy of utter respect of the terroir, flora and fauna of their vineyards.
Château d’Arcole, a certified organic and biodynamic estate, was the first to farm organically in Saint-Émilion in the beginning of the 1960s. Véronique Barthe and Philippe Gardère, who express their sustainable philosophy during the entire winemaking process, do not use any fertilizers or pesticides in their vineyards. After being hand-harvested, the grapes are subject to as little human intervention as possible in the cellar with no pumping and no filtration. The domain proudly uses recycled aluminum capsules and labels when bottling its wines.
Château Coutet, a Saint Émilion estate, received its organic certification in 2012. No chemical treatment has ever been used on the land – resulting in a unique flora and fauna not found on any other surrounding estate. Harvest is made by hand with manual selection of the grapes ("triage"). Horses are used to plow the most delicate plots. The estate is a fervent proponent of green technologies and makes its land available to the agronomy school of Bordeaux to study the micro-bacteriological life of the estate.
Château Cartier, the second label of Château Fonroque in Saint-Émilion, has been certified organic since 2006 and biodynamic since 2008 - a result that comes directly from the philosophy of Alain Moueix who took over the management of the estate in 2001. An ardent believer in biodynamic farming, Alex Moueix uses the lunar calendar to apply various farming techniques on the vineyards allowing the flora to blossom. No chemical treatments are used at the estate. The grapes are harvested by hand and macerated slowly with the use of native yeasts. The estate does not pump or use filtration.
Maison Blanche, located in the Montagne-Saint-Émilion, is a prime advocate of conscientious farming. The domain has used biodynamic pulverizations to enhance the soil life since 2001 and stopped using chemical treatments starting in 2005. The estate has been certified organic since 2009 and biodynamic since 2013. The domain is also Bio-Cohérence certified which label requires the domain to be 100% organic with no use of GMO, owned by a person, rather than a company, making all viticulture and viniculture decisions, with yield limitations. Hand-harvested with triage, the wines are made with little human intervention.
Château de Bellevue, in the village of Lussac Saint-Émilion, is a showcase of environmental respect. André Chatenoud’s philosophy is illustrated by the numerous certifications he has obtained since managing the domain. The estate has been certified organic since 2005. In addition, the estate has been Bio-Cohérence certified since June 2014. The domain also participates in the program “Arbres and Paysages en Gironde” and in the organization “Tulipe” which promote the bio-diversification of the terroir, the use of less glass in bottling and of recycled labels and corks issued from organically certified trees. In the vineyards, the estate does not use chemical treatments and uses biodynamic methods to increase the health of the vines and soil. As to the vinification, the estate harvests by hand with minimal addition of sulfurs and no filtration.
Château Bellegrave, a Pomerol estate, started its conversion to organic farming in 2009 with no use of synthetic pesticides, and became certified in 2012. Both fauna and flora live in harmony in the vineyards resulting from the organic enhancements implemented by the Bauldy family for the last 8 years. Hand-harvested with triage, the wines are made carefully with the intent of showing the estate's respect of the terroir.
Château Deyrem-Valentin, located in Margaux, has been practicing organic farming for several years with little use of chemical treatments. The vines are hand-harvested and sorted in the vineyard and in the cellar. Human intervention is conscientious with light filtering using egg white fining and some addition of sulfurs at bottling. I had the privilege of meeting Christelle Sorge, the daughter of proprietor Jean Sorge, a few days ago. Christelle expressed during our meeting her reticence in using chemical treatments as she spends most of her time in the vineyards. Very conscious of the impact of chemical treatments on the terroir and humans, she only uses natural components such as copper and mineral sulfurs in minimal amounts.
While I love drinking aged wines from old traditional estates in the classic appellations of Bordeaux, I have found great pride in drinking the wines of Château d’Arcole, Château Coutet, Château Cartier, Maison Blanche, Château de Bellevue, Château Bellegrave and Château Deyrem-Valentin. The wines are not only beautiful in their environmental philosophy but also in and of themselves. With pretty fruits and great minerality, the wines are lively and so delectable - they bring to mind the great wines of Bordeaux produced before the advent of chemical farming and extensive manipulations in the cellar. Enjoy these wines during the hot summer evenings a bit chilled with grilled steak or barbecued chicken and you will discover that Bordeaux wines can be the drink of the summer! Caroline Coursant
Certified organic and biodynamic, this 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon wine made by the Barthe family is delectable. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented with native yeasts in small stainless steel tanks. There is no pumping or filtration here and the wine is aged in oak for at least 12 months. This is an elegant wine with great length and a beautiful bouquet of ripe dark berries and cassis with slight tobacco and earthy notes. The body is full with a pretty roundness to it and the tannins are supple. This is a delicious wine that can be consumed now or aged for a few years (5 years). A perfect companion to your memorial weekend, pair this wine with braised pork or barbecued ribs. Caroline Coursant
Château Cartier, the second label of Chateau Fonroque, has been certified organic since 2006 and biodynamic since 2008. The grapes are harvested by hand with long maceration. After fermentation with indigenous yeasts, the wine is aged in oak (30% new) for 16 months. On the palate, this 100% Merlot wine displays a rich bouquet of dark and red plums, cassis, ripe red currant with violet and chocolate notes. With high mineral notes on the nose and palate, the wine has some sanguine and iron overtones. The body is full with smooth tannins. This is a luscious wine that will pair fantastically with grilled meats or barbecued chicken. Caroline Coursant
This is a beautiful wine from Château Coutet, a Saint Émilion estate that received its organic certification in 2012. The domaine has never used chemical treatments on the land – resulting in a unique flora and fauna not found on any other surrounding estates. Harvest is made by hand with triage. Horses are used to plough the most delicate plots. The 2012 Coutet shows a bouquet of dark berries, red currants and plums with slight herbal notes. With a refreshing minerality, bright acidity and firm tannins, the wine has a long and complex finish. Drink now or age it for several years (7+ years). Caroline Coursant
Certified organic since 2009 and biodynamic since 2013, this second label from the domain Maison Blanche is a secret to discover. Vibrant with tension, firm tannins and bright acidity, this wine will accompany many of your meals from casual to fancy. The palate is full of blackberries, cassis, plums with savory, mineral and herbal notes. The finish is long and beautiful. A great wine. Drink it now or age it for several years (7 years). Caroline Coursant
One of the few Bordeaux estates to be certified organic, Château de Bellevue has 12 hectares of Merlot and Cabernet Franc on limestone and clay near Saint-Emilion. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermentations are with wild yeasts and the wine is bottled without fining or filtration. The 2010 is an extremely elegant Bordeaux with lovely deep aromas of cassis, blackberry and strawberry with hints of earth and smoke. The palate is supple, deep and well-structured with dense ripe fruit and a more earthy and mineral center than most modern Bordeaux. This is an excellent value and a great example of a more natural Bordeaux, without excessive oak or extraction.Highly recommended. Decant 3 to 4 hours in advance if drinking now, or cellar five years and drink until 2035.
The 2010 Château Bellegrave? is something serious. Not an outright meaty wine, it's savory in more of an alluring, herbaceous, mint-and-tobacco way. An hour open reveals a nose of red fruit, flavors of dark minerals and plum, and a bracing structure of lean edges and good acidity. The crucial stuffing, the attractive, semi-plump middle, forms after three hours or so of air. At this point, the wine's aromas and flavors have expanded, too. Dashes of extra-dark cocoa and dried cherries hum under more pungent and lasting aromas of black pepper, leather and smoke. A subtle, bitter kiss of ground espresso and an even subtler peck of mint give pleasurable nuance to a palate of dates, plum, and red currants. No cellaring needed, drink this today - just open it at 5 if your meal begins at 8. David Hatzopoulos
Deyrem-Valentin is consistently one of the great values in Crus Bourgeois. The 2011 vintage is no exception. There are pretty floral aromas, spice box, and red fruits on the nose. The mid-weight palate offers flavors of red cherry, black raspberry, with gravelly soil notes, framed by ripe tannins and bright acidity. This is pretty rather than powerful as befits Margaux, with structure resolved enough to give immediate pleasure. John McIlwain
This Bordeaux wine from Château Valentin, a Haut-Médoc estate practicing organic farming, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (10%) and Petit Verdot (10%). Hand-harvested, the grapes are fermented in cement vats with native yeasts and then aged in oak for 12 months, with light filtration (egg white fining). On the palate, the wine is delicious, showing a vibrant bouquet of black currant, berries and black cherries with light savory herbs and tobacco leaf notes. Well-balanced, the wine displays a lively minerality (thanks to the vineyard's ancient glacial soils) and elegant tannins. A classic Bordeaux-style wine at a superb price, bring it to your Memorial Day party - it will be a great companion to grilled meats and barbecue. Caroline Coursant
Château Massereau, an estate located in Barsac, has been farming organically since its acquisition by the Chaigneau family in 2000. The estate is fully committed to natural wine making and it shows in the quality of the wine. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented in concrete vats and then aged in neutral barrique for 18 months with minimal addition of sulfur at bottling. Made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, planted in alluvial soils, the wine displays a bouquet of dark berries and plums with dried green herbs, menthol notes and a hint of violet, tobacco leaf and cedar notes. This elegant wine has a beautiful structure with firm acidity and smooth tannins. A great wine at a beautiful price, this wine will pair fantastically with racks of lamb, kebabs, steaks or pork chops -- a crowd-pleasing choice! Caroline Coursant
Didier Michaud works 1.7 hectares in the Medoc with 30 to 100 year-old vines on limestone with thin soils of clay with sand and stones. He has old vines of Merlot Queue Rouge and massalle selection Cabernet Sauvignon, farmed organically with just a little compost and shallow plowing. Vinification with wild yeasts, no extraction and usually no added sulfur. This is one of the most "natural" and deliciously old-fashioned wines of Bordeaux. DL .... This is quintessential left bank Bordeaux, with black fruit and cassis notes, fascinating minerality and integrated tannin. It has enough elegance to drink young, but should age beautifully as well. It's always a treat to have a wine from a historic region such as Medoc, made naturally, without additives, over extraction, or new wood. This is truly a beautiful wine that seems to me to be an authentic version of what classic old-school Bordeaux was all about. Eben Lillie
Michel Théron moved to Bordeaux in 1988 from the Languedoc in the south of France to study winemaking. His original plan was to complete his studies there, and then move back to the Languedoc to take over the family estate, but love prevailed when he met his Bordelaise wife. Not long after, the couple purchased a small parcel in the village of Cantenac in the Haut-Médoc in 1993 and produced their first vintage in 1994. The estate is now certified biodynamic and covers 7 hectares in Cantenac, Arsac, and Margaux on soils of gravel, sand, and some clay. This beautiful Haut-Médoc is a classic blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, with sumptuous red berry fruits, a hint of smoke, cedar, and fresh tobacco on the nose. The palate is rather lifted, showing vibrant fruit and a touch of earth, and it is very approachable. It has great structure that hints at its aging ability, but it is more than ready to pop open at your next dinner party. Tim Gagnon
A magnum of incredibly delicious Bordeaux! It has great structure that hints at its aging ability, but it is more than ready to pop open at your next dinner party. Tim Gagnon