Bordeaux may not be the first wine region that springs to mind when thinking of eco-responsibility – well think again. A few high profile examples such as Chateau Pontet Canet, classified growth from Pauillac and Chateau Guiraud, first growth from Sauternes, have both recently obtained organic certification and prestigious Chateau Fonroque is a leader in biodynamic agriculture.
Ploughing the vines of Chateau Latour the traditional way
There is also an important underlying eco-movement in Bordeaux which is not restricted to the top vineyards. Bordeaux is a big place with, currently, around 8700 wine growers each owning, on average 14 ha (about 35 acres). The vast majority of these properties are family owned, and with family ownership comes the notion of stewardship; the belief that the land is there to be looked after and passed down to the next generation, a philosophy that goes hand in hand with the notion of eco-responsibility.
However, conversion to sustainable, organic or even biodynamic agriculture is a long and often expensive process both in financial terms and, for a family run business often more importantly, time.
Several initiatives to help producers in their evolution towards more eco-friendly production have been spearheaded by the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council) and these are putting Bordeaux on the eco map.
In 2010 Bordeaux was the first vineyard region to measure their carbon footprint and launch the Bordeaux Wine Climate plan 2020 which stated clear objectives for reducing the carbon footprint of the vineyard :
20% less green house effect 20% energy savings;20% renewable energy 20% water savings and the carbon footprint by 40 000 tons carbon equivalent by 2020 (today the footprint is 203 000 tons).
Objectives are fine but this is also backed up by an online carbon footprint calculator available for all producers and merchants, which allows them to understand exactly where and how these carbon economies can be made.
The Ecophyto 2018 plan, also a CIVB initiative, has a goal of a 50% reduction in pesticide use throughout the vineyard and 20% of the surface area in organic agriculture by 2018. About 5% of Bordeaux’s vineyard is currently under organic agriculture (the same of eco friendly Switzerland, for example).
The major innovation however is the 2010 SME (Syteme de Management Environnemental). This is not just about setting industry wide objectives but is an associative management tool, helping individual properties to improve environmental performance. Under the SME, piloted last year, smaller producers, that don’t necessarily have the finances or the time to spend understanding and implementing what needs to be done to reach certification but who are motivated by a desire to become more environmentally friendly can work together, sharing the costs of a consultant and their experiences. In the first year pilot, 27 companies successfully worked together to reach the environmental certification ISO 14001. With this success under its belt the initiative is now spreading to other vineyards.
However, in the genuine desire to improve environmental practices, there are various certifications and associations which can be confusing for the consumers, especially as each country seems to have different definitions and legislation.
Healthy leaves ………
give healthy grapesThe SVBA
(Syndicat des Vins Bio d’Aquitaine) currently has 140 members producing wine from organic grapes. There is currently no such thing as organic wine, only wine made from organic grapes, although this is a work in progress with the possibility of a certification for organic wine in the pipeline for 2012 (at the earliest).
The SVBA is showing their members’ wines this weekend, the 19/20th November, in Begles (better known for its Rugby than its wine!) just on the edge of Bordeaux city centre. Organic producers form other regions, such as the Jura, will also be present, which is typical of these environmental initiatives that seem to cross geographical barriers with ease.