Gold Medal wine released

When the highly respected Masters of Wine announced their list of the top 12 Gold Medal winning Sauvignon wines in the January edition of Drinks Business, they included a number of well-known wines from around the world.

Alongside them was a less well-known wine from a little vineyard in South West France: Domaine du Grand Mayne.

What’s even more remarkable is that every vintage of our Reserve white since 2015 has made it onto this list, with the 2019 the latest to win the prize.

We don’t make many bottles of this wine, so it remains amongst the South West’s best kept secrets. If you would like to be amongst the first to find out why this vintage is so highly regarded, please click here.

Cheval Blanc visit

Château Cheval Blanc in nearby Saint-Émilion produces wines that are recognised as amongst the very best in the world.

Mathieu had heard that they had started a project which sounded similar in many ways to his plans for the future of the Grand Mayne estate.

So last Friday, he headed to Saint-Émilion to meet the manager of their agro-ecology project, and Pierre-Olivier Clouet, the technical director.

Organic or not organic?

The original philosophy of Cheval Blanc was that they would convert to organic agriculture, but following intensive studies they decided that organics may not be the best answer from an ecological perspective for their vineyard.

Organic certification is focused on chemical products. It’s a really good start, but it misses other issues such as the carbon footprint, biodiversity, the health of the soil and other aspects of the agri-ecological management of the vineyard.

And whilst stopping the use of synthetic chemical products helps to decrease pollution, the use of some organic alternatives (eg copper) is far from ideal and not always the best response to green

What’s the answer?

Sometimes organic is good, sometimes biodynamic, and sometimes just focussing on vineyard health and sustainability is best. The key is to think about what we do and the consequences, and not simply follow a prescribed course of action for certification purposes.

Like us at Grand Mayne, Pierre-Olivier Clouet with his team are bringing this “farmer’s common sense” into all their decision making, helping ensure the biodiversity and the balance of the agro-system.

And in practice…

They start by sowing ground cover plants (mustard, clover) between the rows of vines to trap carbon and other nutrients, improving soil health for the benefit of the vines.

They also replace in some rows a few vines with trees, bringing shade and protection for the grapes. The trees also provide habitat for birds, whilst the network of roots form a symbiotic benefit for the vine roots. A range of tree species helps the drive for biodiversity: fruit trees such as pear, apple and cherry trees and other species such as basswood and beechwood.

Small ponds and hedgerows add to the variety of wildlife present at the vineyard. And a few sheep, chickens and beehives complete the scene.

They accept that they will lose a little area of vineyard when they grub and replant. But the benefit of enhancing nature’s balance with increased presence of small animals, birds, insects (especially bees) makes it worthwhile.

Traditional intensive vineyards are arguably a form of monoculture.  But Chateau Cheval is leading the way, amongst the sea of vines at Saint-Émilion, in how a well-balanced vineyard can be managed, bringing nature back amongst the vines.