Château Gaby Goes Organic

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There is a twofold quandary for those in the wine industry…to be organic or not to be organic?

First, winemakers must consider the best agricultural practices for the vineyard and how to best maintain the sustainability of the entire regional ecosystem. Going organic is an expensive endeavor. It’s time consuming and complicated for any winemaker. But overall, organic practices are beneficial for the grapes, the wine, and the planet.

Second, they must consider the consumer point of view. True, organic wine is a budding thriving industry supported by consumer demand, but will it continually resonate with wine drinkers? Consumer taste is ever changing and the investment behind organic farming is large. Will the cost sustain the demand and make it worth the investment?

Let us rather explore them solutions that innovative vineyards like Château Gaby are using and promoting.

Enter Château Gaby, a winery that has been hard at work to gain and maintain organic status (vintages from 2018 and beyond now carry the certification). Their practices, under sustainable superstar winemaker Damien Landouar, are pushing the innovative envelope with superior results, upholding the Bordeaux region’s goals for a more eco-friendly wine producing region.

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What goes into Organic Viticulture?

What sounds simple, really is quite complicated. In order to qualify for organic status, the vineyard must be free of chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. The wine making process should be free of any non-natural preservatives or harmful chemical additives.

The problem with chemicals is that after decades of use, the ground and surrounding area can still be contaminated, even after a vineyard has stopped using them. Steps must be taken to remove these ground chemicals, through diligent soil testing and safe irrigation practices. Often this process can take years, depending on how chemical crazed the vineyard was previously.

Most of these chemicals served a valuable purpose, while environmentally harmful for the vineyard. Pesticides kept moths, grubs, worms, and other hungry vine-destroying critters away, while the fungicides prevented unwanted growths from destroying entire hectares of vines.  

These are monstrous challenges for any moderately-sized vineyard. Any one of these issues can ruin an entire crop, decimate the vines, and cause extreme financial hardship on the winery.

Still undeterred, Château Gaby got creative. Damien’s up the sleeve trick? Outside the box solutions like harvesting hand-plowed by horses, genodics, and, surprisingly, caterpillar pheromones.

What is Genodics? 

Since the 1960’s, scientists have been exploring the effect sound has on plants. Music shows positive results in humans and certain animals, such as brain stimulation and increased productivity. So why would it not be the same with agriculture and grape vines?

A pioneer in this area of research is the French theoretical physicist and musician, Joel Sternheimer, PhD. Dr. Sternheimer found that sound waves penetrated plants, stimulating growth and the vine’s natural resistance to pests, viruses, and fungi.

Joel patented his findings and began assisting French vineyards in adapting their farming methods to include Genodics. As of 2015, over 400 Genodics programs have been implemented. Spanning several wine regions outside of France including Italy and South Africa.  

Even though several styles of music have been tested, Classical music has the best results (with jazz coming in at a close second). What can we say, vines are traditionalists.  

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Caterpillar, what?

Pheromones, caterpillar pheromones! This genius hack, aka Sexual Confusion, is an organic and sustainable practice that many Bordeaux vineyards are putting into action.

The problem starts with moths. These vineyard pests love mating and, subsequently, laying eggs on vulnerable vines. Once the larva hatch, these caterpillars sup on the leaves and grapes before cocooning and flying off (only to repeat the process all over again). Caterpillars munching on the plants leaves vines susceptible to botrytis, a fungus causing the grapes to shrivel and decay. All bad news for any winery.

Wineries have discovered that by systematically placing caterpillar pheromones throughout the vineyard (making the moths think that egg laying has already commenced) it deters the moths and sends them to make ‘sexy time’ somewhere else, like on their second favorite plant, trees. Damien recognized the genius of working with nature rather than against it, and implemented that strategy at Château Gaby with stunning results.

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Château Gaby’s Dedication  

Since 2014, Château Gaby has been steadily pursuing organic farming practices. Beginning with vintages in 2018 and beyond, all of their wines will be certified by ECOCERT and classified as organic.

ECOCERT is a French organization that inspects and certifies farmers following their strict and rigorous organic criteria. Since the early 90’s, ECOCERT has been leading the French and European charge into a more environmentally friendly unit. It is very noble and respectable organization and most revered in the French winemaking community.

Damien Landouar has been a forward thinker in the organic vineyard pursuits. He has adapted to using Genodics and caterpillar pheromones, as just two of the many natural ways to combat the harms that come to his vines.

Tasting the Organic Difference  

A study out of UCLA that was published in the Journal of Wine Economics concluded that organic wines do taste better. Thousands of wine expert ratings were analyzed and showed that eco-certified wines scored significantly higher than conventional wines.

Organic wine is something that can be tasted as well as felt. Knowing that a vineyard dedicated so much effort into the preservation of their vines and the surrounding ecosystem makes for legendary vintages. The wine just tastes better due to meaningful craftsmanship that elevates every sip.

Every bottle produced at Château Gaby hosts the enrichment and flavor of well-cared for grapes and the terroir that produced them. The 2018 Château Gaby will be the first fully organic vintage to be released. Pour a glass and taste the organic difference for yourself!

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Eric Chalifour