- Domaine Leflaive renovates its cellarsIn the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, no winegrower from Puligny made wine. All the grapes were sold to négociants, in Meursault or in Beaune.
Today, things have greatly changed, especially with the advent of air-conditioning and new insulation materials, which have made it possible to vinify in cellars above ground, located on the ground floor of the houses in the village.
The facilities of the Domaine were modernised regularly, especially in the 70s and early 80s with extensions added to the cellar where the vinifications are carried out. After 40 years of use, the premises became cramped and required updating and improvement.
Our wish was to make the most of current knowledge concerning natural insulation materials to reduce dependence on air conditioning. As a result the attics and walls were reinforced with forty centimetres of insulating material and all the walls were renovated and repointed. In order to maintain a constant humidity, the floors were dug down and some walls were rebuilt in brick in order to distribute the absorbed moisture gradually.
The cellars of Domaine Leflaive are now more self-sufficient and they are insulated with the best materials which allow vinification to once again take place in a tranquil environment.
- Mysteries of Chardonnay
On Chardonnay By Vincent Leflaive 19 October 1992
What a delightful title for a talk on wine! But I am not Sherlock Holmes, trying to solve in its entirety this enigma that is due to both nature's mysteries and the vigneron's qualities. I will simply try, in a few words, to provide you with three reference points that characterise this grape variety and the wine it produces.
Burgundy is made up of four "departements": Yonne, Côte d'Or, Nièvre and Saône et Loire. We will be talking only about the Cote-d'Or, where Chardonnay is the sole grape variety used to produce great white wines. Three factors are essential in ensuring typicity:
• the terroir,
• the grape variety,
• the vigneron's know-how.
The terroir This is a limited geographical space on the land registers, defining an "Appellation d'Origine contrôlée " (AOC) : village wines, premiers crus and grands crus, according to the AOC law of July 1935. These are ancient geological formation, since they date back to the secondary Jurassic cra. Geologists define the soils by esoteric names, such as Oxfordian for Corton Charlemagne, Bathonian for Le Montrachet, and Argovian for Meursault.
All we really need to remember is that soil analyses in the different terroirs, which are on the whole clay-limostone, vary in terms of the percentage of clay and limestone with in additi6n trace elements such as iron, magnesium and boron, ensuring that the grape variety receives differing nutrition via the plant's roots.
As an example: an analysis of the Montrachet terroir has revealed the presence of manganese, whereas this element is present in neither Chevalier-Montrachet, located above it, nar in Bâtard-Montrachet below.
Another example: if we take a line on the same levcl running from Meursault to Chassagne, we find the following appellations: Genevrieres, Charmes, Perrieres, La Mouches, Clavaillon, Pucelles, Batard-Montrachet and Ruchottes; the wines produced in these parcels all show different typicity on tasting.
Finally, we should point out that the village of Puligny-Montrachet is located over water, and this high water table definitely has its importance according to the way it is spread out underground in Puligny's various AOCs.
The grape variety
A single variety, the Chardonnay plant is made up of two parts: the rootstock ond the graft.
The rootstock comes from American vine, found in specialised plantings in the Var, Vaucluse and Ardèche. This rootstock comes from a large family, acquired through selection over the year. In the Côte-d'Or the most frequently used is thc 161-49, as well as the 5 BB, a bit of 3309, and soon Riparia Gloire de Montpellier. The grafts are inventoried before the harvest on particularly healthy plants, and in the autumn are gathered by the A.T.V.H. and passed on to specialised nursery personnel so thce can join graft to rootstock. The Grafted vine will be delivered to the vignerons for planting, usually in February-March.
On the other hand, more than 40 years ago a degenerating malady appeared, caused by a virus called "court-noué " (fan-leaf). In order to combat this disease, Monsieur Raymond Bernard, an agronomist and Director of the ONIVIN organisation, established clonal selection; this is now widely ussed in vinceard replanting. However, there is no guarantee that "Court-Noué " has been abolished, and other rootstock production methods are currently being used - such as rootstocks produced in air-conditioned Greenhouses under ultraviolet lighting. These rootstocks are not yet available to vignerons, but they will provide a 100% guarantee against "court-noué " and Eutypiose. Finally, the production of in-vitro rootsocks is now under way.
The vigneron's know-how
The vigneron has a double job: that of vine-grower, i.e. cultivating the vine and winemaker, that is, looking after the wine.
Cultivating the vine is a job requiring skill and good sense.
·Pruning in order to control production
·Treating the vines so as to combat diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, and destructive insects such as red spiders, etc.
It also means cultivating the soil by incorporating the necessary fertilisers. These techniques have evolved over the last few years, since it has become clear that the use of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides has caused deterioration in the quality of the soil and the plant, and hence the grape.
For the last several years, a return to the past has occurred through biological cultivation (for example, suppression of synthetic chemical fertilisers, replacing them with organic products such as compost; and more recently still, biodynamic cultivation, which blends biological cultivation of the soil with cosmic influences. Is man not stellar dust, as astrophysicist Hubert Reeves wrote? At the domaine, we apply biodynamic techniques over a surface of 5 hectares.
Then there is the winemaker. After the harvest, whose date has to be well chosen, the wine must be raised. This means ensuring the best conditions for alcoholic and malolaotic fermentation. Racking, fining, filtering and bottling follow. Two principles are imperative for us: allowing nature to do its work, and maintaining a clinical cleanliness in the equipment used to stock and transport the wine.
- Vine growing
The grape makes the wine
At the Domaine, the health of the harvest determines the wine's quality. The spreading of compost, close pruning, de-budding and organic cultivation of the vine enable strict yield control.
Vinification and raising of the wine are carried out with respect for Burgundian tradition: long natural fermentation in oak casks, and stirring of the lees up till winter. The pneumatic presses and air conditioning in the winery are the contributions of progress. Two winters in the cellar give the wine all the attributes necessary to "stand on both feet" once in bottle, to use a local expression.
The master's eye
Domaine Leflaive has always had an estate manager: François Virot during its first forty years, then his son Jean, to whom he passed on all his know-how and his exceptional experience of the vine and wine. In 1989, Pierre Morey, also from a long, excellent line of great vine-growers, took over. All three have brought to the Domaine their knowledge, experience and tasting finesse as the outcome of enduring and perfect teamwork. .
The team : One team, in fact. You can't have wine of terroir without women and men of terroir. Salaried employees and pieceworkers (vine-growers doing "piecework" according to the oldest Burgundian tradition, each responsible for his own vineyard area) carry on from father to son in the love of their trade. Coming from Puligny-Montrachet and its surroundings, they're eager to defend, throughout the year in the vineyard, a common heritage and an object of pride, a culture in both senses of the word.
Biodynamics is a method of cultivation based on the sensitive intelligence of natural phenomena. It is not a method of control and it does not make it possible to eradicate a disease or a parasite. On the contrary, it favours the life of an important number of species, and makes it possible to keep the vine's enemies at a tolerable level. Parasites become marginal. François Bouchet, Domaine Leflaive's counsellor in biodynamic agriculture since 1989, explains it as follows :
"Biodynamics develops all living species thanks to specific preparations, made from yarrow, camomile, nettles, dandelion, valerian, compost and silica, which are veritable energy catalysts. It's through the plant that the whole organism is invigorated, as much by deep rooting as by the leaves that capture solar energy. The resulting wine represents the balance between the terroir and the atmospheric environment."
The results of biodynamics on the health of the vines are incontestable. The preparations used in biodynamics allow the vine to strengthen its immunity by respecting the natural balance of fauna and flora.
The wines gain balance, structure and depth.
General | Principles | Viticultural practice
Proposed in 1924 to respond to the concerns of farmers who had already seen their lands threatened, biodynamics is a cultivation method that involves much more than simply prohibiting the use of synthetic chemicals.
In fact, this method, whose principles were defined in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner, can be succinctly summarised by the three following points:
• The upgrading of the soil and plant life in its natural environment through the use of products made from vegetable, animal and mineral matter.
• The application of these products at specific times during annual cycles; this is the dynamic part. It recognises that the land, in the general sense of the word (parent rock, cropland, outdoor environment) is an organism in its own right. In this way it acts like a doctor who, in order to look after his patients, chooses specific treatments through the implementation of life-forces.
• Working the land by tilling and scraping.
Biodynamic agriculture consists mainly of taking care of the soil. It involves making sure that it is properly balanced, creating harmonious life conditions between land, plants and the environment.
This care favours:
• The improvement of soil quality through the presence of a large variety of bacteria,
• Better root development of plant life, with thicker, longer roots,
• Better development of the leaves and flowers by providing the energy required for harmonious development of the fruit.
Viticulture, like any other agricultural field, is considered as a living organism. Cultivated soil is not a simple support for vines, but rather a living environment, a source of energy for plant life just like its outdoor environment.
In this way the vine - a median organism - creates and nourishes its soil in this inhabited and living environment that surrounds the root. The exchanges that take place between soil biology and its root and foliage systems enable the soil characteristics to be transferred to the grapes, increasing the quality of their flavours.
This must be very well developed to compensate for the risk of imbalance arising from this type of one-crop farming.
These mixtures are essential and come from transformed vegetable, animal and mineral matter:
• The MT manure compost mixture supports and reinforces the soil decomposition process. It contains all the elements that help form the clay-humus complex. A considerable variety and number of bacteria are found here.
• The 500 mixture, horn manure, acts on the plants. It reinforces subterranean life. Numerous tests have proved its effectiveness; roots are much longer, thicker and better distributed.
• The 501 mixture, horn silica, helps leaves to grow, balances flowers and helps provide the energy necessary for good, healthy fruit development.
These first three products must go through the dynamisation process before being spread.
• The other preparations, made from Achillea, Camomile, Nettle, Oak bark, Dandelion and Valerian, have all undergone transformations - fermentation in the presence of animal organs for some - boosting all their primary properties by transforming them into humus with specific qualities. These mixtures are essential, as they will be used for seeding composts in order to adjust the fermentation required for correctly balancing and harmonising soil and plant life.
Terrestrial and lunar cycles
We are familiar with the solar cycles, consisting of days, nights and seasons, and with the lunar cycles. For 10 years, the experiments conducted by Maria Thun have allowed us to see how plant growth is affected by cosmic influences. These seem to be linked to the position of the moon, sun and planets in relation to the constellations.
A calendar linked to these observations has been developed. Vine treatments and other work can be boosted by choosing specific dates to carry out these activities. But for thousands of years all good farmers have acknowledged solar and lunar cycles!
Hoeing favours installing the life process by tilling the soil at different periods of the year, month and day. Thus hoeing during the lunar spring will have an effect different from that of the lunar autumn. Hoeing in the morning will vitalise plants, while afternoon hoeing will keep the water in the soil... The grape grower is the one who decides when to hoe and plough, depending on his soil.
If the soil is properly balanced, the plant will protect itself against, or rather not attract, parasites (cryptogams, insects and mites). However, the farmer may have to intervene to help keep plants healthy using herbal teas, decoctions and homeopathic plant dilutions - and, if necessary, natural products such as Bordeaux mixture and sulphur flowers.
The goal of the biodynamic grape grower is to produce high-quality wine with its own particular characteristics stemming from the unique elements that make up the soil of each estate, through specific processes for cultivating the vine. The wine will be the expression of this cultivation because in this way the qualities and particularities of the soil will be respected.
From a brochure of the Syndicat International Des Vignerons En Culture Bio Dynamique
Syndicat International Des Vignerons
En Culture Bio Dynamique
Siège social :
18, Avenue du Docteur Paul Durand
26600 TAIN L'HERMITAGE
Tél : 04.75.08.92.66
Fax : 04.75.08.81.70
- Sensitive Crystallization
Morphocrystallisation, also called perceptible crystallisation.
Evaluate the quality of a living product without using quantification ? Impossible, many of you will reply. However, since the beginning of the 20th century there has been a method that enables us to evaluate the vital qualities of a product ...
- Domaine Leflaive renovates its cellars
- Mysteries of Chardonnay
- Vine growing
- Sensitive Crystallization