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Planty: French organic wine quality mixed

Xavier Planty, head of Château Guiraud, maintains that the quality of organic wine in France is mixed.

He told the drinks business, “As in many other domains, you can find great organic wines as well as not so good ones…”

Planty first started to experiment with organic farming 15 years ago and his work bore fruit after Grand Cru Sauternes Château Guiraud was 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 few châteaux in the Bordeaux 1855 classification to be certified organic.
The white wine — made from a mixture of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc — has a tradition of being grown in southwestern French region, with production now involving no artificial pesticides, fertilisers nor herbicides.

This is a significant development in France, especially with a backdrop of the drinks business Green Awards, showing that the drinks industry is continuing to take its environmental footprint seriously.

He said that making his vineyard organic is a small part of his bigger thinking.

“Taking the decision to conduct the vineyard of Château Guiraud in organic farming is part of a global philosophy,” he said.

“It was not so difficult to take as I am very sensitive to all the questions dealing with nature.

“Technically, it is a daily challenge as we have to take great care of everything happening in the vineyard.”

It all started in 1996 when Planty decided to “work differently” after a friend, who spent his whole life treating fields with chemicals, had died of cancer.

Progress was slow, but he began to “regenerate the soil” with liquid manure and the flora and fauna began to flourish.

“We have definitely found an increase in the number of insects, birds and fauna in general,” he said.

“As the same, a great biodiversity in terms of flora has appeared.

“It is actually the aim of choosing such an agricultural move. The more you have diversity in fauna and flora, the better the balance between the different species is going to work.”

An insect census of Chateau Guiraud’s 100 hectares of vineyards found 635 different varieties, compared to fewer than 200 in “conventional” vineyards.

Risks such as mildew are closely monitored, and long range weather forecasts allow time to plan preventative treatments.

French organic vineyards doubled between 2007 and 2010 and then increased again 28% between 2009 and 2010 to reach 50,268 hectares (124,214 acres).

While Château Guiraud was the first Bordeaux grand cru to experiment with organic growing, Château Fonroque, a Saint-Emilion grand cru, was first to win the organic label in 2006.

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