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ripening grapes in the Loire

ripening grapes in the Loire

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Chateau Grinou goes organic!

chateauGuy Cuisset at Chateau Grinou in Bergerac is an extraordinary winemaker – for years his wines took pride of place on the Allez Vins! wine list both with his “Tradition” wines for superb everyday drinking and his “Reserve” wines, oaked red and white wines of a premium quality but keenly priced (not to mention his oaked dessert Saussignac which is stunning) So I was keen to taste the latest addition to the range – a pure, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, which has all the hallmarks of a Grinou wine – intense fruit character, crisp and clean but with surprising depth of flavour.

A visit to Chateau Grinou (Monestier, 24 Dordogne, Aquitaine) south west of Bergerac, always takes longer than planned, and I always learn more than I expect.

On this ocassion it was to discover that Chateau Grinou is going organic! Now, whilst Guy Cuisset has a genuine concern for the well-being of the local environment and takes seriously his responsibilities as the current steward of the land and the flora and fauna of the domaine, he is no “tree-hugger”. His primary passion is to produce excellent wines. He does not compromise that objective, especially as there are so many other obstacles (weather, pest, disease) and constraints (bureaucratic, legal, financial) in the way. He is convinced that this approach, whilst being a good investment in the future health and viability of the vineyard, will produce better wines – wines which are more intense and show more of the real fruit character of the grape. The wines will evolve over the next few years as new techniques and fewer artificial interventions make subtle changes to the resulting wines.

organic certificationThe latest visit also included a walk through the vines, which demonstrate the complexity of the challenge. Every year is different, and every one of the 365 days of the year will be distinctively different from this year to last or next. This Spring was seriously wet with heavy downpours and sodden soil. This was followed by some very hot dry weather which dried the topsoil to an almost impenetrable concrete layer – making life very difficult when trying to get rid of the weeds between the vines – esepcially now that he can no longer apply selective weedkillers to deal with the problem.

Further on, he shows me his latest innovation – an organic water treatment plant – which collects all the waste water from the winery and treats it organically and aerobically before letting it flow into the local water course. It’s impressive with its bubbling air pumping through the water and the reed bed to filter the run-off. It may be a requirement of the EU, but few other vineyards are following his example.

It is easy to forget amongst all the hype, marketing and packaging that wine is an agricultural product, and that the winemaker is a farmer with his roots in the soil and environment of his domaine – he can see the benefits to local wildlife (some welcome, others not so), and recognises that his future and that of future generations is intimately invested in the “terroir” which makes his wines what they are.

Unfortunately the new Sauvingon Blanc (Bergerac Sec AC) is not yet available in the UK, so all the more reason to pay a visit to the domaine. English is spoken, but do not expect a fancy tasting room with award certificates, old barrels or ancient vineyard equipment – a plastic table in the middle of the stainless steel cuves is all you’ll get – plus a chance to taste some excellent wines and a small slice of Guy’s enthusiasm to take away!

For more info on Chateau Grinou  – see http://www.chateaugrinou,com

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