Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful region of Bordeaux in south-western France. Renowned for its good food and wine, Bordeaux certainly did not disappoint. What’s more, it offered a taste of some of the world’s best organic wines.
Organic wine, known in France by ‘Agriculture Biologique’ or ‘Vin Bio’ labels, is made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, without the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Nearly half of all the organic wine domains in the world are found in France.
Organic red wine contains some powerful antioxidants and less sulfites compared to conventional wines. Its health benefits include maintaining good levels of cholesterol, decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Organic viticulture, or wine-growing, is also known to enhance the soil and biodiversity.
Stretching along the meandering country roads and medieval villages, Bordeaux’s countless vineyards trace their roots to Roman times. In recent years, some of them have begun conversion to organic agriculture, however organic wines from the region are still a relatively rare find in caves de châteaux and on store shelves. Perhaps, considering the growing popularity of organic food in general, the trend will catch on? As one Bordeaux sommelier told me, “Ça va venir—mais pas encore”.
For now, here are some organic Bordeaux wines for you to enjoy. Santé!
Since 2002, the wine on this 12-hectare Saint Emilion property has been grown organically, and has been certified as such in 2005. The owner, André Chatenoud, originally from Geneva, gives preference to natural instead of harsh methods in managing the vineyard. For instance, he recruits birds to help against insects – one bird nest with parents and chicks can help eliminate up to 9,000 caterpillars in just one season. He even uses phytotherapy, such as nettle extract, to build up the vines’ natural defenses!
Pavie Macquin, this eponymous chateau, finds the key to its history in one man, Albert Macquin (1852-1911). It is to him that Saint Emilion owes the idea of grafting vines onto rootstocks, thereby saving the region from ruin by phylloxera epidemic. In September 2006, Chateau Pavie Macquin was promoted to the prestigious level of Premier Grand Cru Classé. For fifteen years, Pavie Macquin vineyards have been managed using biodynamic agriculture, leaving the soil and plants biologically active and healthy.
The Micalet vintage was first mentioned in the 1893 edition of Bordeaux et ses vins as a ‘Cru artisan’ – crafty vintage. Its owner, Jean Péraud, was a pastry maker but also a farmer in his spare time on the family estate, consisting mostly in vineyards, extending over the village of Lamarque. The quality of the Micalet wine was recognized in 1990 with the medal of honor of the City of Paris for the 1887 to 1899 Micalet vintage years. The property has been growing organic wine since 2009, thus continuing a long family tradition of love and respect for the land.