Champagne goes green

Sep 23, 2020 • 7 mins

Green is said to be the colour of hope. So how does that work in Champagne amongst those who tend the vines and who are far too often accused of using chemicals to protect their harvest? Organic farming, biodynamics, sustainable and labelled vineyards... There are many methods which defend and promote an approach that is more respectful to our natural resources. Led by Pierre Guigui, our Grappers exert, the debate is open.


The percentage of organic vineyards in Champagne in terms of the utilised agricultural land is 1.5% whereas in Alsace it is 14.5%. Why this slow progress?

Benoît Lahaye: The fall in yield may be a factor. It is especially noticeable when starting out. Organic methods are not causing a fall in yields - it’s how we work the soils. Climate change may discourage people but Champagne is still a northern region which has always hindered organic farming. Vineyards need to accept the conversion phase, working the soil differently and allowing nature to do its job. It’s logical; when you stop feeding the surface you need to give the soil some time to recover. And it also depends on the year... With 2017, for example, and the years to come it’s going to be complicated. Over time, I’ve learned to use less products, to work more with green fertilisers. Excluding copper (5kg in 5 years), what I want today is to be even cleaner, to move my efforts forward even further. Reserves in Champagne also mean we can mitigate any weather eventualities. This gives me a little breathing space and helps me see things differently.

Thibaut Le Mailloux: The cyclic stages of the weather, mildew, etc., all that is intrinsic to vines can be formidable the first few years and even afterwards. Organic conversion can be a frightening process. And in Champagne, there are also the plot divisions. A small plot that is badly exposed (less than 5,000 square metres) will be difficult to manage. Organic certification suffers from these parameters. Neighbouring plots and vineyards often lack rigour, which means that certain criteria cannot be fulfilled.


How are you moving towards more virtuous methods?

Fabrice Rosset: Resources must match ambitions. Leaders must open the way. It is a commitment to a conversation, a process involving a certain close collaboration which took shape with the arrival of Cédric. Technical meetings are held regularly, organised every quarter with everyone who works for the house, so we can support them every day, provide solutions and start the conversation. Our carbon footprint has also been measured. Winemakers move forward much faster if, and only if, they are supported and assisted. The desire was to start conversations and discussions to start creating the future of what vine growing should be. The idea of a community was born. We need to inject the necessary resources so we can move forward.

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