Clos Puy Arnaud, 2015 Update

Let’s be honest; Bordeaux lags behind somewhat when it comes to organic and biodynamic viticulture. I think I am just trying to soften the blow by inserting ‘somewhat’ in that phrase. There is, as far as I can see, no reason why a much larger swathe of the region should not convert to a less chemically-dependent methodology when so many vignerons working in the drizzly appellations of the Loire Valley can achieve this. The reasons Bordeaux lags so far behind are many and varied, but I suspect a principal cause for this deficiency is that it is a region where the individual lacks power. In the Loire Valley a committed vigneron such as Richard Leroy has complete authority over his little domaine, and if he wants to convert to organic or biodynamic viticulture, or indeed a full-blown ‘natural’ philosophy, then he can do so, regardless of what negative effect this might have on yields, or revenue, or indeed quality. When it comes to making this decision, he is beholden to no-one. Except perhaps his bank manager, of course.

Clos Puy Arnaud

Big-name Bordeaux, however, is different. If there were a Venn diagram with two circles, one for viticulture and one for big business, where they intersect would be Bordeaux. The technical director is an employee, and he does not have free rein over the way in which the vineyards are managed. There are many other individuals all with a say, not least the accountants who will be only too ready to point out the negative effect on revenue of the reduced yields that may result. As a consequence over the past decade only a handful of big-name châteaux have made the move to organics or biodynamics, although more are joining them. The latest recruits are Château Palmer, fully biodynamic from the 2014 vintage onwards (certification is still some way off yet though), and some of the first growths – most notably Château Latour I think – continue to creep towards organic viticulture. The heart of the Latour vineyard, L’Enclos, will be fully organic from the 2015 vintage onwards.

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