Grand Cru Sauternes Château Guiraud has been awarded the Agriculture Biologique (AB) farming logo – France’s national logo for organic products since 1985.
The 2011 vintage will be the first Grand Cru Sauternes to carry the logo, and one of the only châteaux in the Bordeaux 1855 classification to be certified organic.
Products carrying the logo must contain more than 95% organic components, and be produced within the EU.
The château started to experiment with organic farming 15 years ago and today uses no artificial pesticides, fertilisers or herbicides in the production of the sweet wine.
In 1996, fed up with constant chemical treatment of his own private 15 hectares of vineyards, director of the property Xavier Planty decided he wanted to work differently.
Learning the ropes with a 12ha vineyard, he suffered a number of setbacks, but working alongside an agricultural engineer, he began to regenerate the soil with liquid manure to replenish the grassy vegetation that grows naturally around vine stock.
“Rather than feed the soil with fertiliser, we feed it with bacteria; it’s easy to go bio,” Planty said.
“Illnesses such as mildew are closely monitored, and with weather conditions known up to a week in advance, treatment can be giving preventively. It’s incredible to see how the fauna and flora have returned,” he added.
An insect census of Château Guiraud’s 100 hectares of vineyards found 635 different varieties, compared to fewer than 200 in “conventional” vineyards.
To help expand biodiversity, 3.7 miles of hedges have been planted to help protect insects and feed them in spring.
The multiplication of insects which feed on vine predators has allowed Planty to dispense completely with insecticides since 2004.
While Guiraud was the first Bordeaux grand cru to experiment with organic growing, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Château Fonroque was first to win the organic label in 2006.
The Aquitaine region is the third largest in France to experiment with organic vineyards, behind Languedoc-Roussillon and Provences-Alpes-Cote-D’azur in southwestern and southern France respectively.
Aquitaine now has 300 organic-certified estates and 400 working towards certification.
Organic vineyard area in France doubled between 2007 and 2010, then increased again by 28% between 2009 and 2010 to 50,268 hectares.