The renowned Bordeaux wine region in southwestern France produces some of the most coveted wines and vintages due to its high-quality and diverse terroir. Yet, historically, Bordeaux isn't known for organic and biodynamic wines. That is, of course, until now. Here's the story of five revolutionary and passionate winemakers proving that the iconic region can produce award-winning organic and biodynamic wines.
These wine estates took a chance on green farming - in a region wrought with rain and mildew - and won. Mary Dardenne, the owner of Decanter Tours in Bordeaux, explains the risk, "when the pressure for mildew grows it can sweep over a vineyard in less than a day and wipe out the whole crop".
Behind every impetus of conversion to organic and biodynamic farming is a highly personal story and fierce commitment to restore harmony with nature. The truth of which sings out of the glass. Jean-Yves Bechet of Château Fougas reports “a noticeable, direct impact on… microbial life in the soils” with wines showing a “greater sense of place… more consistent and less prone to vintage variation.” While fourth generation wine-maker Bérénice Lurton says, "Biodynamics is an incomparable way to better transmit the qualities of (our) unique terroir, this particular brightness and depth made of tension and minerality."
Organic and biodynamic winemakers add an intimacy and openness to the formal old-world feeling of Bordeaux. One of the most prestigious winemaking regions in the world, Bordeaux’s most famous châteaux can feel intimidating to visitors who aren’t wine experts. Yet, these wine estates pull back the curtain with French-casual elegance and one-on-one hospitality. Often you’ll meet the winemaker, in boots with dirt under their nails after working with the vines. You might stroll the vineyard together, while their puppy plays fetch with a wine cork. It's the perfect time to visit as Dardenne add that, "many of the wines coming out now are the best (Bordeaux) has produced in decades."
For stunning scenery, charming French winemakers and, of course, the famous Bordeaux wine you crave, these five organic and biodynamic wineries deliver a delicious and authentic and Bordelaise experience.
1. Château Climens
You haven’t experienced heaven on earth until you’ve tasted Sauternes, a French sweet wine from Graves. Since 1992, Bérénice Lurton has managed the estate of Château Climens. In 2010, she converted the entire estate to biodynamic farming using a "tea" made from local plants to treat the vines. These unmistakable subtle wines have a radiance and depth as you savor an aromatic blend of sweet spices and even a hint of eucalyptus. The goal of conversion was “not only to better respect the environment but also to allow the vine to find its own balance... for harmony at all levels.” Fittingly, Château Climens was awarded the Bordeaux Best Of Wine Tourism gold award for Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices.
2. Château Haut Meneau
Organic since 2012, Château Haut Meneau is led by winemaker Jacques Bravard in the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux AOC. The mostly clay and limestone soil produces wines with its respected classification « Cock’s & Ferret » 1er Cru Bourgeois. Daily visits - by appointment – are warmly welcomed. Taste through his latest and library vintages and stroll the vineyard with his curious dogs. In 2016, Château Haut-Meneau was awarded the silver medal Concours de Bordeaux Vins d’Aquitaine for its 2014 Côtes de Bordeaux Red.
3. Château Fougas
Dating back to the 18th century, Château Fougas in the Bourg AOC has been biodynamic since 2009. Today Jean-Yves and Michèle Béchet produce quality Bordeaux wines with a unique sense of terroir. Its 1993 Château Fougas Maldoror and 2010 Château Fougas Forces de Vie are a testimony to the thriving expressing soil producing complex flavors, violet aromas, and a defining minerality. Jean-Yves Bechet explains, “We want our wines to express a sense of place… and we favor refinement over concentration. The resultant wines are soft, refined, and elegant, brimming with wonderful aromas of spice and fruit…”
4. Château Lusseau
Berengere Quellien credits her feminine intuition and family’s passion for a “beautiful red” as her success in making Château Lusseau a Bordeaux contender after taking over the family property in 2000. Since converting to organic farming and manual harvesting, the “noble fruit” has produced high-quality wines. A commitment to organic farming is part of Quellien’s global vision of harmony with nature to let the terroir express itself. During the summer months, guests may stay in her converted barn guesthouse on the vineyard and experience the Bordeaux countryside.
5. Château Roland La Garde
In the stunning landscape of northern Gironde in Blaye and Saint Seurin of Cursac, Château Roland La Garde is led by Bruno Martin, a 7th generation winemaker along with his son Guillaume. They converted to organic farming in 2012 and to Biodynamics in 2014. Following Maria Thun’s calendar, they describe the result as an elegant aromatic expression and minerality in the wine. The land agrees with biodynamic farming as every year wild tulips burst into bloom.
More Ways to Experience the Best of Bordeaux
After visiting Bordeaux's exceptional countryside châteaux, the city is not to be missed. A UNESCO world heritage site, it stuns with neo-classic architecture dotted with charming bistros and a new wave of upscale café cuisine prepared by young iconoclastic chefs. After you've toured its cobblestone streets and seen the Port of the Moon, head to the wine museum - your visit ends with a top floor wine tasting with sweeping city views.
La Cité du Vin (the city of wine) - on the banks of the Garonne River - offers an interactive global wine experience and lighthearted education classes. Architecturally resonate of a decanter, the museum truly shines as a testament to Bordeaux's renaissance.
Next, stroll along the river to the Le Bar à Vin du CIVB, a hot spot for wine-lovers in the know. In this historic, "flatiron building" on Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, you'll find the chic bar a welcoming place with a fine selection of Bordeaux wines from crémant to Clairet with the best prices in town.
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