The transition to organic winemaking is well underway in Champagne

Jan 21, 2021 • 2 mins
Team Grappers

Organic is good, it’s as simple as that, and the Champagne Houses have fully grasped its importance. Whether their choices be guided by consumer expectations, environmental needs or simply an honest desire to draw a line under harsher and less respectful methods of viticulture, it is clear that their approach is evolving for a wide variety of reasons.

Such decisions have been taken by a growing number of winegrowers in Champagne and the Association of Organic Champagnes (ACB) was created in 1998 by pioneers in organic viticulture. The ACB now has over 110 members who are all committed to accentuating the diversity of Champagne’s terroirs whilst respecting the environment.

Yet major Champagne Houses, and in particular those moving towards organic growing, require more time to adapt. ‘Why?’ you may wonder. The answer is that their vineyards are more extensive and it is therefore more difficult to adjust or replace their supply. There is no doubt that organic conversion is a challenge but it is an even greater challenge for the larger Champagne Houses.

The first major Champagne House to make the transition was Louis Roederer.

Louis Maison Roederer was established in 1776 and now owns 242 hectares of vines split between the Montage de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.

2021 is an important year for the Champagne House. It began working towards organic certification for 115 hectares i.e. half of its vines in 2018. The conversion process takes at least 3 years before the highly coveted certification can be awarded which makes 2021 the year for Roederer’s official organic certification. "There is a belief, deeply rooted in my family for generations, that we owe everything to Nature and that when we listen to her and provide her with the attention and care she needs, she will give us the gift of a terroir at its finest expression, the source of great fine wines,” explains Frédéric Rouzaud, CEO of Louis Roederer.

Organic conversion is more than just a trend.

Next up is Pommery who recently began organic conversion for the majority of its vineyards, i.e. 175 hectares out of 285 hectares in total.

This carefully taken decision was the culmination of many years of research and experimentation across all of Pommery’s vineyards. The decision reflects the philosophy and values of the Vranken-Pommery group and its CEO Paul-François Vranken who already has over 2,000 hectares of vineyards, either organically certified or currently under conversion, in other wine regions in France and Portugal (Camargue, Provence, Douro). This move has required significant adjustments in terms of their vineyards and facilities.

Despite the significant adjustments needed in the vineyards and the facilities, the decision to convert to organic growing allows for the production of higher quality grapes that provide a more faithful expression of the terroir and more than compensate for any loss in terms of yield.

Champagne’s most prestigious Houses are now moving towards an organic approach. Who will be next? Will organic become the norm? Only time will tell.