These eco-conscious winegrowers are leading Bordeaux into a greener future
As temperatures continue to climb in Bordeaux, winegrowers are feeling the heat as they try to manage the impacts of climate change. Recent years have seen average temperatures rising to new heights, with some predictions suggesting an additional one or two degrees Celsius rise in the near future – a development that could spell disaster for one of the world’s most iconic regions for viticulture. But, luckily, producers are taking positive action to protect their beloved businesses from an uncertain future; by turning towards more sustainable practices such as using cover crops and implementing Agroforestry measures.
Here we take a look at some eco-conscious winemakers leading the way in Bordeaux’s green transformation.
Legumes, Cereals, and Brassica
At Château de Respide, Amélie Chatin and her team strive to create a better future for their vineyard through the use of cover crops – plants grown between rows or under vines to provide a host of benefits to the soil and vineyard. Through careful selection, they have chosen six different varieties of cover crop – three cereals, two legumes, and one brassica – that offer numerous advantages such as improved aeration of soils, increased biodiversity, and halving the amount of tractor tillage required; all while saving time and money, as well as reducing consumption of fossil fuels.
Amélie believes that these cover crops are essential to sustaining the health of the vines in the long-term. “The various characteristics of each variety provide essential nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth and development,” she explains. “Moreover, their different rooting depths allow for better air circulation within the soil.”
Going forward, Amélie plans on planting clover in remaining rows which won’t be as tall as other varieties but will still be compatible with tractor use. It’s all part of her ongoing mission to experiment with different strategies that are beneficial for both the environment and her business. As she puts it, “We know this is a beneficial strategy for so many reasons; we just have to keep experimenting to build upon this foundation.”
Agroforestry & Carbon Capture
Pauline Lapierre Dietrich, second-generation winegrower at Château Haut-Rian, is an advocate of agroforestry. With the help of Big Ensemble, a non-profit organization encouraging farmers to plant trees in agricultural areas throughout France, she has been able to reintroduce trees and bushes into and around her vine plots.
Pauline reflects on some of the benefits that agroforestry brings, both for the environment and for her local community. “The first thing we noticed was how much our work brought us closer to our neighbors,” she says. “We asked members from the local community – from students and the elderly – to help us with planting, which gave them a great sense of purpose. Most of them had no idea what we did at the winery – one even guessed that we made beer!”
The advantages go beyond just creating a stronger community bond. Agroforestry can also benefit biodiversity by providing habitats for birds, insects, and other wildlife. Not only do these animals bring life to a previously dull landscape, but they can also help protect against disease by pollinating plants and controlling pests. Plus, trees act as carbon “sinks” absorbing carbon dioxide from the air while releasing oxygen back into it.
Agroforestry is becoming increasingly popular amongst Bordeaux winegrowers as more become aware of its many benefits. As Pauline puts it, “We work in our vineyards, we live close to our plots, we take family walks on rural roads, we drink our wine with friends. Our environment is therefore our work, our living environment. Beyond the fad, adopting agroforestry and other sustainable practices is vital to us.”
Sheep & An Insect Hotel
At Château La Tour Blanche, in Bordeaux’s Sauternes region, sustainability is a key element of their farming practice. They have implemented several initiatives to ensure that their land and crops remain healthy for generations to come. One way they are doing this is by using sheep in the vineyard.
“We bring in sheep twice a year from La Ferme Des Itinerants – once in the winter and again in the spring – to munch down the cover crop between the rows of vines,” explains Château La Tour Blanche’s general manager, Miguel Aguirre. “The sheep contribute greatly by eating weeds, providing natural fertilization, and being part of our sustainable approach to farming. It’s a great benefit to us because we don’t have an additional expense for the use of their services.”
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” adds Sébastien Gilly, shepherd and owner of La Ferme Des Itinerants. “Bringing my sheep to the vineyard gives them free access to high-quality forage during an otherwise dormant growing season. I feel it’s important to partner with farms like Chateau Latour Blanche who are committed to sustainable practices.”
Chateau Latour Blanche also created an insect hotel where beneficial bugs stay. These “good” bugs help keep populations of pests under control so that chemical pesticides become unnecessary.
Bioclimatic Architecture & Energy Efficiency
Château Valandraud is a renowned winery located in Saint-Emilion, France, which was launched in 1991 by husband-and-wife team Murielle Andraud and Jean Luc Thunevin. When they first began, they were a small venture that operated out of a garage. Over time, they have become one of the most esteemed and recognized wineries in the region. Château Valandraud has also led the way in terms of energy efficiency, having implemented bioclimatic architecture into their new winery, which opened in 2021.
Bioclimatic architecture is an approach to construction that focuses on sustainability and energy conservation. Château Valandraud’s new winery was designed with natural materials like wood, stone, and clay sourced from nearby suppliers, as well as solar panels on the roof for generating electricity. In addition to providing shade to reduce cooling costs, rainwater harvested from the rooftop is collected and reused for irrigation purposes.
The facility also employs an innovative ventilation system that reduces energy consumption while ensuring optimal temperature control at all times and seasons. Natural air currents are directed around the building in order to keep it cool during hot summer days. Any wastewater created by production processes is treated right onsite before being released back into nature, in a full-circle approach to winery efficiency and sustainability.
Incorporating these green initiatives has enabled Château Valandraud to ensure their operations leave minimal environmental impact while still maintaining their high standards of quality wine production. Investing in eco-friendly technology helps them build towards a more sustainable future.