Bordeaux wines with sustainability credentials, hosted by Bordeaux tutor and Master of Wine Lydia Harrison
Sustainability is a broad concept and can mean different things in areas such as the environment, the local economy and society.
This tasting revealed some of the work that Bordeaux winemakers are taking with different initiatives to make themselves more sustainable on all fronts.
It also showed that Bordeaux is adaptable and progressive, where no single sustainability approach works for everyone and that small, incremental changes can often be the best way for wineries to start their journey.
A key concern in Bordeaux is climate change which is resulting in more unpredictable weather, rather than simply higher temperatures. As an example, there have been two damaging late frosts in the last five years, compared to the long-run average of one every 20 years.
Around 75% of Bordeaux wineries are certified for sustainability in one way or another; these include:
- Terra Vitis (continuous sustainability improvements)
- HVE (environmental high value)
- ISO (international standards)
Within Bordeaux €1m is being spent every year on sustainability research of which €400k goes on measures to reduce the use of pesticides with a 9% reduction in greenhouse gases.
There is a focus on innovation and adaptability to maintain the quality of vineyards for future generations.
Does organic wine actually taste different? It is impossible to tell, is Lydia's view as there are just too many other factors that cannot be controlled out.
My own view is that any winemaker ambitious enough to work organically is most probably seeking to make the best wine they can, so it's all part of a drive towards quality.
Organic farming is now becoming something of an important sub-category within wine and something that particularly resonates with a younger demographic.
The Bordeaux Wine Council's latest sustainability figures were reported in Decanter last month: Bordeaux sees sharp growth in organic vineyards - Decanter
Details and tasting notes from Lydia.
Château Roquefort 2020, Les Roches Blanches (100% Sauvignon)
Owned since 1976, the winery focused on forestry and organic / sustainable practices; only 45% of the land is vineyards with the remaining 55% given over to forests to improve bio-diversity. They also work on better vineyard management, reducing packing waste and Slow Tourism.
aromatic, herbaceous and slightly minty with exotic fruits; sappy and vinous with fresh, citrussy grapefruit, gooseberry and lime marmalade and excellent underpinnings. Persistent, rounded, savoury and mineral.
Pioneers in Permaculture
Château Guiraud, G de Guiraud, Bordeaux Blanc, Sauternes (Majestic, £17.99)
An unusual dry white Sauternes, this has some Semillon in the blend; the ethos of permaculture is to tread lightly, with earth care, people care and fair shares.
The winery seeks to preserve diversity through improving soil health, increasing micro-organisms, aeration and reducing compaction. They avoid a mono-culture to support a range of species and insects.
ripe and rounded white peach and stone fruit, broad and fruited
Groupe Grands Chais de France, Calvet Bordeaux Reserve (Waitrose, £9.39)
Calvet is part of France's largest exporter, Les Grands Chais, with over 20%, who have been in Bordeaux since 1994.
Proving that larger organisations can do sustainability as well, Calvet have been working to reduce waste in their business, with less packaging, only sending out full loads to reduce food miles, as well as reducing additives. They also have their own weather stations to manage vine health and spray the vines only when needed; fewer resources also makes good business sense and helps with pricing.
M / CS blend; ripe, juicy fruits, plummy and enjoyably easy-drinking
Château Carbonneau ‘Classique’, Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux (General Wine, £9.99)
GDON is a collective organisation that works as a Defense Group against Harmful Organisms; in this case, the issue is the leaf hopper, a vineyard disease-spreading pest. Wineries collaborate to proactively monitor for leaf hopper larvae, installing traps and work with institutes to share data and expertise.
90% Merlot with 10% Malbec for structure and spice
Bio Packaging + Conservation
Chateau Brillette 2016, Moulin en Medoc (Vinissimus, £21.44)
The estate is 247ha, but 50% is maintained as native forests; no weedkillers or insecticides are used. Trees are planted, mowing is late, dead wood is left in their forests to provide a natural habitat. They also have beehives, birdhouses and bats who naturally prey on vineyard pests. This reduces the need for pesticides which also helps with pricing.
They have won awards for their bio-diversity, have reduced energy use by 20% and have small-scale initiatives in almost every part of their production, asking the same of their suppliers.
There is even an eco-inspired cuvee that comes in a lightweight bottle using a biodegradable label and water based inks.
On the left bank of the Medoc on gravel soils; very elegant, savoury evolution with cedar and tobacco, well-made in a classic Bordeaux style
Flower farm and fruit trees
Château Brown, Pessac-Léognan 2015, (Slurp, £34.95)
The winery takes an holistic approach, practising organic viticulture (but not certified), maximising bio-diversity, eco-responsibility and reducing its carbon footprint.
Only 55% of the land is vineyards with the remainder for balance; they have been planting trees and hedges since 2015. They created an apiary in 2017, have an orchard and fruit farm with 36 different types of trees and now also grow flowers.
From a war, sunny and Very Good year,