27 November 2008

Bio-dynamic grape-growing

The first winery we stopped in on Tuesday was François Chidaine's in Montlouis. Actually, it's not the winery but a shop on the town's main street along the river. Called La Cave Insolite — a cave is a wine shop and insolite means "unusual, out of the ordinary" — the shop does tastings of Chidaine's wines and sells bottles of Chidaine's Montlouis and Vouvray wines, as well as other bio-dynamically produced wines from all around France.

François Chidaine's « La Cave Insolite » in Montlouis

We were the only customers in the shop. The young woman who talked with us and poured wines for the tasting was very cordial and very professional. She was obviously knowledgable about the local wines and vineyards. We tasted two sparkling wines and at least half a dozen still wines going from the very dry to the very sweet. All were wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape, which is also called Pineau de la Loire here.

On the main street in Montlouis, 10 minutes west
of Amboise on the Loire

Chidaine inherited the Montlouis wine business from his father and has acquired vineyards in Vouvray, across the river, as well as in other nearby areas. He also has introduced bio-dynamic methods. It's a gradual process and goes beyond what you might think of as organic farming.

After tasting and purchasing a few bottles, then, we drove on over to Vouvray to see if we could find a winery called Domaine Huet, which C & J knew about. We drove around in the vineyards up on the heights above the village of Vouvray and did manage to end up where we wanted to be, almost by chance. Below is a picture of a sign that describes Huet's growing and wine-making methods, with my translation of the part of the text.

Domaine Huet, a well-known Vouvray producer

The bio-dynamic method was introduced gradually and since 1990 has been practiced over the entire vineyard. We tend the vineyards by mechanical means, using absolutely no chemical herbicides, in order to protect the micro-organisms that live in the soil.

Organic fertilizers, in small quantities — 1 ton per hectare (2½ acres) — are produced on the property using a mixture of cow manure and straw that is composted for a year. The only treatments we apply in the vineyard are the so-called "Bordeaux mixture" (copper and slaked lime as a fungicide), powdered sulfur, and preparations made from local plants.

In 1988 we eliminated all insecticides and other synthesized chemical products. We have recreated an ecologically balanced environment in which natural predators have re-established themselves.

The ground is worked according to the rhythms of the planets, following the practices developed, more or less consciously, by grape-growers of past centuries. The grapes are picked by hand, with successive passes through the vineyard so that the individual bunches are picked just as they reach full ripeness.

The grapes are crushed in a pneumatic press. Fermentation takes place in our cellars using only the yeast that is present on our grapes.

These practices, which respect the soil, the plants, and the environment, ensure that the character of our wines and the specific growing conditions here find full expression.

I'm not sure the photo is clear or large enough for you to be able to read the French text, but I hope it is.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.


  1. Happy Thanksgiving Ken, Walt and Friends

    How do you like these bio-dynamic wines? I bet they don't offer peach and scuppernog wines like our local winery does;-)

    Thanks for the explanation of this type of wine. I need to try some one of these days.

  2. Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, a big apple pie in the oven :) It is a nice thing to know that everyone here celebrates this holiday... it's not just for Christians, and it isn't a holiday for Muslims or Jews or Buddhists where they have to still go to work and everyone around them is unaware that it's even a special day for them. It's for everyone :) Having the parade on just reminds me that we're all off from work, all over the country (well... just about), and everyone is getting together with family and enjoying good food.

    My French colleague, who has two adopted Chinese daughters, however, is just not that into it... it kind of disappoints me. But, she is having a nice meal... just not turkey. They're had a Crèpe dinner last night, and are having quail for dinner, which is nice and elegant and European :))

    Happy Thanksgiving Day/night to you and Walt and your friends! (and everyone else who celebrates it!)


  3. Happy Holiday to both of you!

  4. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you and your guests.


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