With its vast tracts of neatly trimmed vineyards, high yields, and damp climate, Champagne would appear one of the least likely places to adopt organic and biodynamic viticultural practices.
Just over 1% of Champagne’s 33,500 hectares is organically farmed
However, the region can now boast the fastest rate of conversion to organic practices in France, as well as some of the most dramatic drops for insecticide use. Indeed, Champagne currently accounts for half of all France’s pheromone use – an expensive but organic solution to prevent male grapevine moths finding a mate and breeding.
Champagne is also home to a number of groups committed to biodynamic and organic viticultural practices, such as Terres et Vins, comprising 21 producers. The bigger houses are also turning to more sustainable practices, with Veuve Clicquot in particular promising to eliminate the use of herbicides in the next two years according to cellar master Dominique Demarville, having invested in new equipment to manage weeds under the vines, as well as between them.
Meanwhile, Champagne’s biggest in biodynamics is Louis Roederer, which now farms 40 hectares according to the principles of this controversial farming practice. President of the house Frédéric Rouzaud said that the techniques applied in these vineyards were being used to help the house manage its further 200ha in a more sustainable way. Roederer is also one of the few houses, along with Philipponnat, using horses to plough the vineyards.
Vying for the region’s largest organic label with Duval Leroy is Canard-Duchêne’s “Authentic Green”, which currently accounts for around 70,000 bottles each year, but Groupe Thiénot, which owns the brand, aims to increase production to 100,000 bottles.
Others experimenting with more sustainable viticulture include Lanson, which is now farming its clos on the outskirts of Reims organically, and Taittinger, which is trialing biodynamics on three hectares of the brand’s 235ha.
However, organic and biodynamically farmed vineyards are still a tiny proportion of the total Champagne area – 400 hectares are managed in this way, which represents just a little over 1% of the region’s area.
Other Champagne trends reported by the drinks business include:
8. Disgorgement debate
9. Reinstating rituals
10. Sweet surge