Claire et Florent Bejon Producer Profile
Claire et Florent Bejon Producer ProfileRead more… //= $article['id'] ?>//=$article['url']?>//=Yii::t('app', 'Read more…')?>
Philippe Chevarin 2021 Visit
This visit with Philippe Chevarin took place in July, 2021.Read more…
Laurent Lebled 2021 Visit
This visit with Laurent Lebled took place in July 2021.Read more…
Pierre-O Bonhomme Visit (2021)
This visit to Piere-O Bonhomme took place in July, 2021.Read more…
A Tribute to Olivier Lemasson
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François Pinon (1951-2021)
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Bellivière's "Vignes en Foule" Experiment
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A 2019 Visit to Matassa's New House and Vines
This visit with Tom Lubbe took place in June, 2019Read more…
Video: A Day in the Life of Nadia Verrua
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A Video Tour of L'Acino
A Video Tour of L'Acino's VineyardsRead more…
Clos Roche Blanche Interview
This interview with Didier Barouillet took place in the Clos Roche Blanche living room in June, 2011.
Tell us about the history of Clos Roche Blanche.
The history of the
It turns out that the great-great-grandfather of my partner Catherine Roussel was a local politician. He was the deputy and mayor of
He found the most competent people available to work on the vines but also to build a
They were pretty crafty about everything, particularly having an outside
This great-great-grandfather didn't live in this house; he lived in
As far as how Catherine and I became part of the
What was Catherine's work like before you showed up?
Her father died in 1975. Catherine and her mother took over the
Her father was one of the first
This is when I first met Catherine; right around the death of her father. There were two employees at the time. I used to come
She thought it was real progress! Her main employee drove it, and to pay off the machine she started
So before you took over, were the vines treated chemically?
And was your cellar work also influenced by this wave of technological advances?
It was, because the whole process is a vicious cycle. If you start using
I remember working with all types of crazy
I've always been curious by nature, and one day I tried using 71-B in the
It was still fun to have a
So how did things begin to change?
Well, by becoming conscious of what I have just told you. It didn't seem normal to me that by adding a
So I decided I wanted to change everything. I wanted to start from the ground up, literally: to focus on where everything begins, which is the soil. My initial intentions were simply to make a more authentic beverage. I don't mean a better one; a wine that uses conventional
20 years later, I've succeeded. But this takes time. It's a long process.
What were you doing before you started working at Clos Roche Blanche?
I specialized in mathematics and worked as a chemical engineer.
How did this influence your approach to being a vigneron?
A scientific approach to winemaking is beneficial because it forces you to take a Cartesian stance. It makes you understand things very quickly. I didn't know anything about
A scientific approach makes maintaining the vines easier, because you actually understand what's going on with nature. And it's tremendously beneficial to the wine, because wine is nothing more than chemistry. Wine is full of molecules: microorganisms, bacteria and fungus. Wine is a transposition of composites in the soil through chemistry. Science made me realize this, and that made me realize that we had to stop using
Can you elaborate?
My scientific definition of
When you realize this, you can't go back to
And this evolution continues in that today, I almost don't pay any attention to the vines and focus principally on what's happening in the soil. The vines are a direct consequence of what is happening in the soil.
None of this came as an overnight epiphany. It's been a slow and steady 30 years of evolution.
Can you tell me about the progression of your work with the soil?
Again, there has been a serious evolution in my work. When we started
I was trying to find and alternative, and fortunately I learned a very important lesson from an agronomist named Claude Bourgignon (who has come here many times), and that was the working the soil is not a good thing.
As I've mentioned before,
So to let these organisms thrive, you need to only work the soil superficially, with blades to cut down unwanted grass, or to
This was the first big breakthrough, and the second involved a shift away from intensive
The guy who's been making corn on the same
For some reason this evades most
I haven't used
So why do we hear time and time again that working the soil is of utmost importance?
Because it is! You need to work the soil without
You also need to work the soil to aerate it. If you're using
You've expressed that the work in the cellar is minimal compared to that in the vines, but can you give us some insight on what goes on in there?
Evidently I don't use any
I'm a lot less stressed than I used to be in the
You analyze your wines a lot right?
Much more than most.
When you don't use
The secret is to not let the bacteria take over when you need the
Our goal is to provoke an
And that's not all. They're also often responsible for sourness in wine. Greece has had a lot of problems with this. Lactic bacteria always has to stay busy, and they love to fuck things up! So we make sure the
As someone who uses science to work with nature, how do you feel about modern oenology's approach of using science to correct nature?
I don't use science to make wine, I use science to shape it. I'm very serious about
After the war, we discovered how
And what's more, which I find scandalous, none of this is listed on a wine's
Wine is the only product in the entire world where you don't have to list the preservatives you use on the
Let's talk about your favorite subject, "natural wine". I know you have strong opinions about this. What were your intentions when you started working this way in 92, and how have things evolved for you and for all wine made this way in 2011?
The current notion and pseudo-definition of "
I'm not talking about all the
Because what does "
You can't reason in this dogmatic way. And if you do, you're forgetting your past. Was I an idiot when I worked
You can't be dogmatic about things like this, and this is what I don't like of all these little "chapels" and associations that sprout out everywhere in regards to
So as someone who does follow, more or less, the principles of "natural" winemaking, how would you ideally present it to someone who knew nothing about it?
When you don't come from an
Everyone works the way they see fit. Along the way, people will influence and shape your work. This is normal, this is life. You find something you deem interesting in somebody, you reject what you don't. You shape yourself from your personal experience, which is inevitably affected by those around you. You live, you learn, you work. You get praised, you get criticized. And with this you progress.
You can't be pretentious. You should be humble.
You should also be observant: every day something new is going on. Plenty of
You can talk to a human and never really know what's going on, but plants are transparent: you know when they're doing well or if they're not feeling good. You sense joy and pain without words. Ok, I'm getting a little poetic here, I'll stop!
Can you tell us about your attempt to convert the estate to biodynamics?
I learned a lot from
After that it's up to you if you believe in magical preparations. I don't, which is why I stopped. And if you ask the most serious
If I hadn't done three years of
Is that because you thought you could control everything just with science?
Exactly. But I was wrong. Now that I know what is going on in the soil, little things that don't mean anything on their own -the 1 in 0.0000001- every day for 400 million years these little nothings have been creating the world's antibiotics. Man has only been doing this for a century. I thank Pasteur and penicillin, but this has been going on every single day in the soil. It's incredible. The Ice Age, insane heat, they've survived it all. The oldest insects we know of (350 million years) are insects that live in the ground. They've survived it all. With courage and humility! And humans don't see a problem with fucking around with this.
Destroying nature is easy. Reconstructing it will take a very long time.