As we discussed in the last blog post, when you look closely at these two vastly different regions, you will discover some fascinating parallels. Both Bordeaux and Germany have over 2,000 years of winemaking under their belt, both have breathtaking landscapes, and a modern outlook on the traditions of old.
These regions have deep viticulture histories and celebrate centuries of tradition. Knowledge is passed down to new generations, who often come into the business with extensive knowledge from the world’s top education and research institutions. This current generation of winemakers are bringing new perspectives, efficient processes and sustainable techniques that result in delicious, high-quality wines.
In this week’s blog post, we are specifically focusing on the viticulture techniques and sustainability efforts of two winemakers from these regions.
In Germany, vineyards in the 13 winemaking regions tend to be situated along the rolling rivers, such as the Mosel, Main and Rhine Rivers, while in Bordeaux, vines are planted around the Gironde Estuary, Garonne River and the Dordogne River, and you’ll often hear wines described Left Bank, Right Bank, or Entre-Deux-Mers (“between two seas”). These bodies of water not only enhance the beauty of the landscapes, but also contribute to the characteristics of the wines from both regions.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the Gunderloch estate in Rheinhessen, Germany – one of the region’s most revered estates. The Gunderloch estate has been around for one hundred and thirty years. In 2016, Gunderloch started evolving and moving in a new direction under the master and commander of estate, Johannes Hasselbach. The resulting wines are achieving levels of grace, balance and energy that they have never been seen before.
Johannes Hasselbach’s philosophy is focused on less handling of the wines and less “winemaking.” He prefers hard work in the vineyards. Gunderloch’s all-reductive cellar is now seeing more barrels, longer maturations, and more skin contact on the wines, which is having a magnificent impact on the style.
Johannes is also starting his fermentations in the vineyards before bringing the wines into the cellar. Spontaneous fermentation is now the estate’s norm; all estate wines are fermented with native yeasts. VIRGO, which is Johannes’ experimental wine, is fermented by vineyard yeast starting outside during harvest. The estate has been organic and vegan for five years now. Johannes is considering pursuing certification and is leading the way for promoting chemical-free viticulture at the VDP.
As we discussed prior, the younger generation winemakers in these regions are bringing new perspectives and ideas to these historical regions. Johannes is actively taking steps forward at Gunderloch; as he knows that changes to the ecology, economy, society and culture around him call for changes that are crucial to the success of the estate.
We are now going to discuss the Claire Villars-Lurton from Bordeaux. Despite being born into a family of winegrowers, Claire did not see herself destined to manage a wine property. However, in 1992, after the abrupt passing of her parents, Claire abandoned her doctorate dreams and joined her grandfather, Jacques Merlaut, to continue her mother’s wine work. To expand her knowledge, Claire enrolled at the Faculty of Oenology in Bordeaux and immersed herself into Bordeaux’s world of wine, while managing her family’s properties.
In 2000, the Merlaut group’s properties were divided up between family members and Claire inherited Chateaux Ferriere, Haut-Bages Liberal and La Gurgue. At 32, she devoted herself to restoring Chateaux Ferriere’s reputation and performance, redesigning the entire production chain and returning to reintegrating biodiversity and banishing the use of chemicals. The property earned an organic certification in 2015 and then a biodynamic certification from Biodyvin in 2018.
The Bordeaux region is making serious strides with getting winemakers to adopt a certified environmental approach. In 2014, 35% had a certified environmental approach. In 2016, 55% and in 2020, 75% of Bordeaux’s winemakers bring together a diverse range of properties, production and protection methods. Within this diversity, the best-known environmental labels exist side by side. Some properties even have multiple certifications, like Claire’s property!
What we love about these two regions is that they both have a conscious mindset. Winemaking is intrinsically linked with nature, which is why Bordeaux and Germany have been at the forefront of improving sustainability in the industry. Their efforts extend beyond ecological factors, encompassing both economic and social aspects, creating a tightrope for winemakers looking to produce great wine that is biological and fair, while still offering wine enthusiasts and consumers an excellently valued sip for the price. Santé or Prost, friends!
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