Bordeaux ramps up sustainability agenda

An increasing number of vineyards in Bordeaux are exploring sustainable and environmentally-friendly production methods with a record 60% now certified as either organic, biodynamic or the French HVE (High Environmental Value) certification, according to The Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB). 

Allan Sichel, vice president of the CIVB, told DRN: “In 2014 it was 35% of vineyards that had some form of environmental certification and this rose to 55% in 2016, and now it’s 60%. Our objective is to bring that to 100%.

“One of the certifications that is growing rapidly is the HVE certification, which is very broad ranging but covers areas such as reducing water and energy usage in the vineyards, exploring green energy supplies, using less pesticides and developing biodiversity. The certification is validated by the French Minister of Agriculture.

“Bordeaux has the highest number of HVE-certified vineyards in France (more than 500 estates are now CVE-certified out of all Bordeaux vineyards). We are doing very well from that point of view. 

“The good thing is that wines from vineyards that have this certification have a sticker on them and this is increasingly being recognised by wine buyers and it is something consumers are starting to look for. 

“We work with the vineyards in small groups of about 25 to 30 together and one of the unexpected by-products of this is that it creates a link between those in the group, and the whole issue brings everyone together. They all know how important the subject of environmental and sustainable viticulture is.”

Sichel also confirmed the harvest for the 2019 vintage is coming to an end, with the last Cabernet Sauvignon grapes currently being picked. So far the team is happy with this 2019 vintage, he added. 

He said: “We didn’t have typical weather this year, so in Spring we had frost and April brought hail. May was very warm and there were hot days in June and July, but the team were all very happy with the quality of the grapes so far. We have a lot of freshness and nice fruit content with balanced flavours and ripe tannins. 

“In the summer it was hot in the days but mostly cool at night and that is what we like to see to help grapes develop complexity. 

“The weather did have an effect on the size of the grapes and I was surprised at how well the vines did during those dry hot periods over the summer. We noticed that during this period the weather stopped the maturing process a lot. The vine reduces the ripening process to keep itself alive. And so whereas over the past 20 years we have been harvesting earlier and earlier due to climate change, this year it was back in line with how it used to be. We had smaller berries with thick skins but some rain in Seprtember, which allowed full ripeness to occur. 

“Cabernet Sauvignon has done particularly well this year and Merlot too, although of course we try to avoid over ripeness with Merlot, and that could have been a problem this year.”

As DRN reported in July, Bordeaux producers are now able to explore different grape varieties, which might be better suited to climate changes in the future.

Some of the new varieties allowed in the blends include Touriga Nacional, Albarino, Marselan, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng, This strategy was adopted in June this year and it is still waiting to be validated before the first plantings can take place. The plantings will take place over 10 years with growers only allowed to plant a maximum of 5% of their vineyards with these varieties and with only 10% permitted to be added to the blend of a wine. 

Related articles: