Organic & biodynamic viticulture
Domaine de Montille has been practising organic faming since 1995 and biodynamic farming since 2005. Why and how? Etienne attempts to answer the question:
Burgundy is progressing from conventional chemicals to 100% natural farming. Where does Domaine de Montille stand on this?
Organic viticulture means banishing all synthetic chemicals that can't be found in nature, except for copper sulphate. In short, chemical fertilizers, synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides are forbidden.
In 20 years (1995-2005), the Domaine converted to organic viticulture, and even to biodynamic victiculture in 2005. 2011 was the first vintage to be certified because the certification process is very long. As for me, I had always strongly believed we could go back to something simple and healthy and I wanted to further our approach by introducing biodyanmic practices.
What are organic and biodynamic farming?
Organic farming forbids the use of herbicides, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides that are synthetic chemical molecules. It offers a completely different track from traditional agriculture.
Biodynamic farming is organic farming plus what?
PLUS preparations that are supposed to revitalize and improve the behaviour of the plant in its environment;
PLUS closer attention to the natural cycles of the pant and the moon in order to work in harmony with them; reducing inputs; and reinforcing the plant's natural defenses so it produces better grapes;
PLUS closer attention to the rhythm and phases of the wine in the winery and cellar
Our approach to biodynamic viticulture is pragmatic. It is a farming technique, not a 'religion'.
How did this transition take place at Domaine de Montille?
We didn't start from scratch. The vines were already healthy because the soils always had been regularly ploughed and no herbicides had ever been used. Then, in 1985, the domaine stopped using chemical fertilizers and moved to compost. The big leap occured in 1995 when I decided to stop using synthetic pesticides and fungicides. In the first three years, we completely banished fertilizers and we truly purged the soils. We progressively incorporated manure and green compost every autumn to improve soil structure. This helped re-oxygenate the soil and give it a second breath. Our vines developed more homogeneously with less cases of degeneration. Now our vines look after themselves, naturally.
Biodynamic viticulture: why?
We hoped to erase the errors of 'technical progress'. We wanted to find sustainable solutions and renew with a virtuous circle. It isn't always an easy thing to do when you're up against major groups in a market-oriented economy but, when I see rabbits returning to the vines, it brings me hope! We'll keep going farther, we'll keep trying new things every year.