The French #Winophiles group of wine writers and bloggers start 2021 with the theme “What’s new in Bordeaux”. Jeff from the blog Food Wine Click! is our host and spearheads our Twitter chat January 17 at 11am ET, 17:00 CET. I touch upon three areas that continue to evolve here: Sustainability, Adaptation and Oenotourism. Please see below for other group member articles on this topic.
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Bordeaux is about making wine, but in recent years this has meant other things as well, like modifying vineyard practices to adapt to climate change and putting more emphasis on enotourism, including chateau visits, dining, and lodging.
Bordeaux is also about the environment. Concerns have grown in more recent years and some wineries and vignerons (vine growers) saw changing their practices was necessary and jumped right in. Being a historic region, with a lot of tradition, it took others more convincing, and in some cases the next generation stepped in to make those changes. Given the climate- maritime with more humidity – and the risk of losing part or all of a vintage, reducing, or eliminating chemical usage is a tough choice and requires a new mindset. In fact, many vignerons and winery owners in Bordeaux are now working towards the entire region becoming engaged in some type of environmental certification (whether organic, biodynamic, high environmental value (HVE/Haute Valeur Environnementale, or others) by 2030, a goal established by the CIVB wine trade association.
All these items are not necessarily new- they’ve been building, evolving and sparking new ideas for several years.
Take oenotourism for example. In the past, access to many chateaux was a privileged, private affair. Developing the infrastructure to accommodate tourist visits and allowing them to experience the chateaux was not necessary. That’s just the way it was. Now, the next generation of Bordeaux wineries and those buying vineyards in the region see tourism and total winery sustainability, not just environmental, key for the success of Bordeaux and its 7,000 or so properties.
In a series of CIVB webinars, and conversations with winery owners and consultants last year, I gained a better understanding of what’s going on in this region. Below I will touch on some of these items.
This is one word that covers a lot of topics! It tends to focus on agriculture with non-chemical items to combat predators and creating an ecosystem of biodiversity on a given piece of land key. But it’s much bigger including corporate responsibility: how a given winery’s actions effect not just the environment but society as well. For example, use of local and/or eco materials, use of solar and other forms of energy, and reuse of water. And the economic impacts of actions on employees and the surrounding community: things like paying fair wages, education opportunities and supporting local businesses through various activities.
Agricultural items include planting hedges and trees in and around vineyards, and grasses and cover crops which attract bugs and insects and serve as a sort of reservoir for them increasing area biodiversity. Creating a habitat for bats is gaining momentum as they eat unwanted moths and insects who can spread disease in the vineyards. And of course, minimizing, or eliminating the use of chemicals.
“A joint project by the French Bird Protection League (LPO), the CIVB, INRA Bordeaux and Elyomis, is assessing just how efficient these bats are and how to encourage these natural assistants.
They developed an online bat observatory, an app and a geo-location system and the CIVB is releasing a technical notebook for wineries with practical tips for improving the animals’ habitat.” Wendy Narby, Insider Tasting
Wendy has a fascinating article on this topic.
We know wine regions around the world are warming up. While some grape varieties will actually benefit, it’s been known Merlot and Ugni Blanc (aka Vermentino / Rolle) are already beginning to suffer in Bordeaux.
And as suggested by Professor Greg Jones, one of the world’s leading viticultural climate scientists, wine regions around the world may need to consider changing varieties they grow to those better adapted to future climate conditions.
Much research along those lines is taking place at the Institut des Science de la Vigne et du Vin (ISVV), which is a partnership between the University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux Science Agro, and the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environmental Research (INRAE), along with many other agencies and contributing entities. It is a multidisciplinary higher education, research and development center specializing in enological and viticultural issues. You can find it at the larger Grande Ferrande campus of INRAE in Villenave d’Ornon just south of Bordeaux.
One of many research projects at ISVV is the Vitadapt experimental vineyard. It’s a roughly one-acre vineyard planted in 2009 with 52 varieties laid out in a way that allows for a proper comparison of how various vine traits respond to the changing climate conditions experienced each year. Two important traits studied are how the different varieties regulate their water use in response to drought stress and how vine phenology (i.e. the timing of budburst, flowering, véraison, ripening) are affected by changing temperatures. Preliminary results from the studies provided data for the recent decision by the INAO to allow planting new varieties in the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superiore AOCs. This allows growers and winemakers the opportunity to experiment as they adapt to a changing climate: Red varieties include Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan, and Touriga Nacional, and white varieties Alvarinho, Liliorila, and Petit Manseng. These grapes do well in warmer areas.
The Vitadapt vineyard is the brain child of Kees van Leeuwen, and the extensive sampling program each year since 2012 has been run by Agnes Destrac-Irvine, both at ISVV. My husband Mark is also doing his PhD in this vineyard studying the drought stress response of the now 50 varieties.
Each year we live in Bordeaux something new pops up. For instance, the Garden of Scents and Eifel designed greenhouse tour at Chateau de Reignac in Entre-Deux-Mers; you learn about many uncommon herb and flower aromas found in wine on a gorgeous, down-to-earth property. Or the impressive restaurant and hotel at Chateau Lafaurie-Payrageuy in Sauternes with their display of Lalique crystal pieces, both traditional and modern. Chateau Beychevelle completed a renovation that includes a charming hotel and a variety of dining experiences in a luxury setting at La Table de Beycheville in Saint-Julien (Medoc). It’s truly a destination unto itself.
Being a cyclist, the electric bike tour at Chateau Marquis de Terme in Margaux, which includes a tasting of wine and local food products, is perfect on a sunny day. If you prefer less exercise, flying over the vineyards with Chateau Venus is an alternative in Graves.
If all you want is the wine tasting component, Margaux properties now work together ensuring a winery is open seven days a week to accept visitors. And in Cru Bourgeois, a variety of properties are open every day of the year- these are chateau in eight appellations on the ‘left bank’ Medoc region.
Truthfully, there’s something for everyone and every price point.
Bordeaux certainly has, and continues to make positive changes and new discoveries in sustainability, oenotourism and viticultural research.
~ The French Winophiles talk what’s new in Bordeaux ~
Look for us chatting on Twitter January 17th at 11am ET, 18:00 CET with hashtag #winophiles. Can’t make it? No worries, we have you covered! Dive into these information packed articles at your leisure.
- Susannah at Avvinare shares “Cru Bourgeois – A Closer Look At Chateau Labadie”
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm pairs Chateau Haut-Pougnon with Mediterranean Stew.
- Terri at Our Good Life matches a Hearty Seafood Chowder with a Special Bottling from Chateau Tour de Bonnet.
- Allison and Chris at Advinetures post Fronsac: Out of the Shadows of Bordeaux.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass writes This Francs Côtes de Bordeaux Lets the Fruit Shine Through.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla serves Croissants aux Framboises + Chateau Sabliere Beausejour 2016.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator says For a Special Evening at Home: Bordeaux’s Sweet, Sparkling, Savory Surprises.
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish asks Are Dry Wines the New Sweet Spot for Sauternes?
- Nicole at Somms Table writes about Faux Fancy Bordeaux.
- Lisa at The Wine Chef offers Learn About Cru Bourgeois Wines: What’s New and Why You Should be Drinking Them.
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! declares What’s New? Natural Bordeaux!
- And here at Savor the Harvest I share “Sustainability, Adaptation and Oenotourism Evolve in Bordeaux”
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