Organic farming et Biodynamic
Domaine de Montille practice organic farming since 1995 and Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet sonce 2002.
Over the course of 20 years (1985-2005), Domaine de Montille progressively – and naturally – turned to organics and then to biodynamics. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and synthetic fungicides were completely abandoned so that the soil and vines could return to their more natural state. Today the Domaine claims a complete rupture with traditional agriculture but not to such an extent that they make biodynamics a "religion". In 2012, the Domaine will be certified as "Ecocert Bio". Above all, this is an agricultural methodology applied from a pragmatic approach: listen to the soil and the plants, promote and encourage the development of the vineyards and work in harmony with the natural cycles of the planets and phases of the moon to reinforce the vineyards.
Getting to know Pierre Clair, Vineyard Manager
Organics hold no more secrets for Pierre Clair. Since his arrival at Domaine de Montille in 2003, after studying a BTS in viticulture and oenology at the CFPPA in Beaune in 2002, Pierre has worked tirelessly to ensure that the soil and the vines continue to claim back what is theirs. Today he sees that the plants have rediscovered their strength and balance and can better fight stress and disease. Consequently, they have much less need of him... well, almost.
Burgundy is progressing from 'conventional chemicals' to 100% natural. What is the philosophy at Domaine de Montille?
Organics means banishing all synthetic chemicals not found in nature, except for copper sulphate. That's to say it is forbidden to use chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.
Over 20 years ago in 1985, the Domaine began moving into organic farming and, since 2005, has implemented biodynamics. The 2011 vintage will be the first to be certified as organic because it is a very long process to gain certification. I am really pleased to work at a domaine that is conscious of environmental issues. I have always been totally convinced that we could return to something simple and healthy. Meeting with Étienne de Montille in 2003 only accelerated that belief: he wanted to go deeper into the concept of organics and evolve the domaine towards biodynamics. This thinking had always been my credo.
What are organic and biodynamic farming?
Organic farming forbids the use of herbicides, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides that are made up of synthetic chemical molecules. It is a total rupture with 'traditional agriculture', meaning chemical agriculture, since its introduction in the 1960s.
Biodynamics is organic farming plus:
PLUS using preparations that are supposed to revitalize and improve the behaviour of the plant in its environment
PLUS being attentive to the natural cycles of the planet and the moon and to work in harmony with these phases; reducing inputs; and reinforcing the plants' health so they produce better grapes
PLUS operating according to the rhythm and phases of the wine in the winery and cellar rather than on a pre-determined schedule
Our approach to biodynamics is pragmatic, it is an agriculture focused on technique and not on 'religion'.
How has this transition taken place at Domaine de Montille?
We didn't start from scratch. In fact the vines were already 'healthy' because the soils had always been ploughed and no herbicides had been used. Then in 1985, the domaine stopped using chemical fertilizers and moved to compost. Finally, the big leap happened in 1995 when Étienne, who was named joint manager that year, decided to stop using synthetic pesticides or fungicides. Nonetheless, during the first three years after we banished fertilizers, we truly purged the soils. Little by little, we manure and vegetable composts each autumn to improve soil structure. This helped re-oxygenate the soil, giving it a second breath, and helping it to come back to life. In the end, we obtained more homogenous plant development and less degeneration. Now, the plants look after themselves, naturally.
Biodynamics, can you explain to us what it implies?
We want to 'erase' the errors of 'progress'. We want to find permanent solutions, respectful of the planet, and restart with a beneficial circle sustainable for the long term. However, it is not always obvious when fighting against market economics and large producers and consortiums. But, when I see rabbits returning to the vines, I feel reassured! We try to go as far as possible every year. We try new things. Sometimes it is like a poker game: a storm can destroy everything in an instant. But once you have a good team in place, you go for it. We get up early in the morning and sometimes we finish late, very late! At the end of the day it is the hand of man, his experience and his know-how that are the most important.