Emmanuel Giboulot, a biodynamic winemaker in Beaune, has been threatened with a €30,000 fine and six months in prison for not treating his vines against the flavesence dorée disease.
The 49 acres of our farm are surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and woods, at an altitude of 150 m above sea level. Our main goal has been to produce wines that reflect the uniqueness of this territory. Our respect for the land and the grapes has found an answer in the biodynamic cultivation movement founded by Rudolf Steiner.
The conversion of the fields to biodynamic cultivation has taken several years, and the maintenance of the land and vines is now an ongoing life process.
During the wine making process we pay strict attention to quality control. For fermentation, we only use the yeasts already present on the grapes. We keep sulfites levels low and do not add tannins or other additives. We firmly believe in a wine that reflects the geographical area where it was produced; not in concocted wines fashioned to suit the vagaries of the moment.
Millésime Bio brings together organic wines from a variety of French regions and from many countries outside France. The trade show provides a platform for dialogue and exploration through conferences and open wine tastings.
Why do you do what you do?
It’s a great question! We think it is a way of being (without sounding too cliché). We honestly believe that what we do, and the way we do it, is simply the best way to go about growing our wine. We have been lucky enough to have a unique space to grow our wines situated in such pristine area, and protected by National Parks NSW. As a consequence, we believe we have the obligation to protect and invest in the infrastructure that our land provides us.
For example, instead of a traditional farming approach, which sees the land as a method in which to extract resources, we believe the approach of putting back into the land what we take out, nurturing as such, provides a much better output and even further, a sustainable approach. It not only provides a long term view of our land and hence our product, it is also a method to protect the land so that it keeps producing at the same high quality wines for future generations.
We think it is really a new, somewhat becoming mainstream, point of view to wine growing and farming in general. We believe to our core that it is the way for a sustainable future where we put back more than we take away.
How do you do it?
To achieve what we described above, we have a number of strategies in place.
A great example is encouraging our native grasses and flowers to flourish between the rows of vines. In fact, this is a practice that we continue around the entire property and it has rewarded us with grasses that are more resilient to droughts and winter cold. It also helps the vines by ensuring the organic matter remains in the soil, decaying humus provides nutrients for the vines and native grasses – a unique cycle.
This also results in very healthy cattle that have become sought after for their quality cuts, as they have access to the native grasses which they graze on and what’s more, a thriving diverse property in which to grow to maturity.
Another example is that we encourage local flora to flourish around the property such as native grasses – poa, dianella, thysanotus, themeda, dichelachne, and a variety of native orchids which all grow alongside the vines. This is a great way to protect native species and also provides visitors with some unique bush walking opportunities.
In terms of fauna we see a lot of hawks, eagles, owls, lizards, bats and the sugar glider possums that co-exist in the vineyard forming a symbiosis of pest management. Along with our Guinea Fowl and Geese, they all assist in natural pest management by eating detrimental bugs and disturbing soil born pathogens.
In combination, there is Integrated Pest Management, no need for the input of insecticides and various other agricultural chemicals. Mold control is minimal and usually with organic elemental compounds such as wet-table sulphur, copper sulphate or phosphoric acid. This results in very little chemical residues carried over in the vineyard or the wine.
What obstacles have you overcome ?
We have had plenty of natural obstacles to overcome. First thing that comes to mind would be the drought that Australia had during the early to middle 2000’s. This had a huge impact on the vines through drought stress and a huge demand to keep the water up to the vines through use of our dams. It did have its benefits though with a fabulous 2004 vintage which was probably due to the extensive sunlight received. It made beautiful, high intensity sugar grapes which were perfect for our Riesling vintage.
Other problems we’ve faced include frosts and a lot of rainy weather over the past few years – especially into the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. This caused problems with mould and a loss in production and yield due to a contrasting problem with a lack of sun and pathogens problems due to the wet weather.
Are you happy with this work?
We think it (i.e.: the work) gives us a sense of satisfaction that working a 9-5 job couldn’t provide us. The property talks to us and tells us what it needs and we in turn provide that so it can provide for us. It has definitely defined our purpose in life – to protect our unique space of land because it is so special in our hearts. Given all that, it is difficult not to be happy with our lot as it is so damn rewarding.
Is it worth the effort?
Sometimes we wonder that. Why are we doing all of this? Who will appreciate all of what we have given in creating this huge task. We have to take a step back and think of all the things we’ve achieved: A sustainable and very low-carbon vineyard which provides wines that people love and gives us so much satisfaction. It would be difficult to imagine doing something else.