Emmanuel Giboulot, a biodynamic winegrower in Burgundy made the headlines (here Decanter) in the wine media a few weeks ago after he was notified by the French administration for refusing to use insecticides preventively to treat his vineyard against the cicadelle (scaphoideus titanus), an insect which is the vector of the flavescence dorée, a dangerous vine disease. I called Emmannuel on january 8th to have his last news and feelings about the issue.
He says that there was no documented case of flavescence dorée on his vineyard or in any vineyard in the vicinity but the administration had given orders (décrets) to the growers to spray their vineyards, and this in two contiguous départements, the Saône et Loire and the Côte d'Or.
The authorities, who visited 41 wineries in the Côte d'Or in mid-2013 found only one winery without proof of purchase of the insecticide, it was Emmannuel Giboulot's. He could have done like a few winegrowers, buy the product, keep the receipt and not use it in his vineyard and he wouldn't have had then any problem with the law enforcement, but he chose to be frank and show his colors, and when the administration guys showed up he said he didn't want to spray this insecticide. Even if certain products are organic-farming compliant, their use was also harmful to a whole range of beneficent organisms. He was initially summoned to the court in november, but couldn't come, then he was summoned again to present himself at the court on december 24th but his case was postponed until february 24. He risks a fine of 30 000 € and a 6-month jail term for his refusal, which he justifies by the fact that the spraying is unnecessary (there was not a single case of flavescence dorée in the Côte D'Or in the spring of 2013) and would weaken the ecosystem of his vineyard without reason as no case of flavescence dorés has been observed in or near his parcels. The closest known case of flavescence dorée happened in Plottes (départyement of Saône-et-Loire) which is located 77 km from Beaune. Plus this is completely alien to the official posturing of the authorities to encourage a diminution of the insecticide sprayings. Emmannuel Giboulot received support in his ordeal from different groups like Biodivin, Renaissance des Appellations, Biodynamic farmers groups, but the issue is touchy because some groups reveive subsidies from the state or the regional administration and they had to be careful in their support.
Emmanuel Giboulot says that the spraying against cicadelles, the vector insect of the disease aims to limit the movements of this vector, but 75 % of the success of the fight against Flavescence dorée lies in the identification of the affected vines and the removal of those vines; then if a treatment is decided it has to be in an area in the immediate proximity of this vineyard. In the present case, he says, the SRAL, a state administration dealing with agriculture and forestry seems to be pushing for heavy-handed approach without a deep understanding and distance for handling the problem. Last year they ordered three compulsory sprayings in the 3 village areas around Plottes and this year they asked to the whole Saône-et-Loire département and the whole Côte d'Or to spray, even though this latter départementhadn't a single documented rcase of flavescence dorée.
Another thing is that the spraying effect is very limited, there should be 3 to be sure if you really wanted to "do the job"; Then these sprayings are decimating the Typhlodromus specy (or predatory mites) for example, which are keeping the biological balance in the vineyard and preventing pests from expanding. Emmannuel Giboulot says that the disease has less room and opportunity to move in an environment with diversity and multiple life. He says that he knows about wineries that had used the compulsory insecticide and as a result, were obliged to add two anti-acaricide sprayings because the natural predators had been largely erased and opened the door to harmful pests.
Read also this article [in French] about the collateral casualties caused by this treatment on the typhlodromus population.
Some people wonder why uncorrected wines are having a larger following year after year, thinking it's a hype, but they certainly didn't try many wines like these, they wouldn't need to resort to conspiracy theories to explain why more and more wine amateurs are bored with mainstream wines.
With a bottle like this one it's love at first sight, you just haven't to theorize and utter elaborate tasting comments, and on a table with several other bottles there's a good chance it would be the first to be empty.
Technical info on the wine : Domaine Mouressipe, Cuvée Tracassier 2009, Vin de pays de la Vaunage. Grenache. 13,5 % vol. Une vinification naturelle en levures indigènes et sans aucun ajout [natural winemaking on wild yeast and without additives]. Bottled by Alain Allier, artisan vigneron in St Comes et Maruejols. Organic vineyard management (Ecocert certified).
Watch the video-interview of Alain Allier (in French) on the linked page.
Here are a few lines (my translation) found on an adminitrative document dealing with the square "sanitary" requirements for fruits & vegetables. Yet another example of heavy-handed administrative regulations leading to exactly the opposite in terms of quality. Reading the whole document (in French) sheds light on the obscure mindset of the bureaucracy employees who devised these labyrinthian rules. Here is the excerpt (my translation) :
3.1.1. Minimum requirements
Within the tolerance margin, the products must be:
- Healthy. Are excluded : products with rotting or deterioration such as to make them unfit for consumption,
- Clean, practically free of any visible foreign matter,
- Practically free from pests,
- Practically free from damage to the flesh caused by pests,
- Free of abnormal external moisture,
- Free of any smell or taste alien to the fruit/vegetable.
There is a tolerance for up to 10% of products in each batch not meeting the minimum quality requirements in number or weight.
Within this tolerance, products affected by degradation are limited to 2% in total.
This tolerance does not apply, however, to produce affected by rotting or any other alteration that would make them unfit for consumption.
In short, we can't deny that the administration (French or European) deals samely and impartially with wines and with fruits or vegetables, we feel here the same devotion for apparence and squareness. Whatever their delightful content and their lack of residues, these apples are banned from retail because of their scars, skin defects and occasional worms. But every single pecking wound on these apples is more valuable than any pointless administration approval...
There were lots of apples this year, after a very poor volume in 2012. It's like if the trees wanted to catch up and make twice more apples as a revenge. They even made some sort of green harvest of their own, letting hundreds of tiny green apples drop on the ground in june or july (I don't remember exactly), as if they had second thoughts and realized they had really planned too many apples. There were still too many in october and each was thus smaller than average.
In Cotes de Nuits, Frederic says, they have other nice vineyards, like Vosne Romanée les Champs Perdrix, it's just over La Tâche (2 meters above) and the vineyard is farmed organic, plowed with a horse; he works also with a vineyard on Morey Saint Denis Premier Cru les Monts Luisants, just above the Clos de la Roche, a wonderful w=vineyard and thin vines.
Fred adds that some of his prices are getting high compared to the prices he used to have with vineyards in Saint Romain but the prices he has to pay to the owners for 350 kg of grapes can be 15 000 € and that's why some bottles tend to cost more than what his followers used to pay.
If you're looking for a more affordable treat, try to find the cuvée Gigi by Georges Descombes (pic on right), another beautiful Beaujolais like this winemaker had us hooked to.
There's another aspect on this issue : the price. You can of course find butter made without additives in an artisan dairy shop or even a good charcuterie shop, but here I found in a French supermarket a very basic butter with the words sans additifs, and at the very basic price of 1,3 € for the 250-gram pack. I really think that this is worth our attention, we're told that for a product without additives there's no way around, we are to pay the distorted prices that we see in these organic food stores. But if such a very well-priced butter-without-additives can now be found in a basic supermarket and in the regular dairy-products aisle (not the fancy organic one targetting the health-conscious baby boomers), there's really hope that better food products are just around the corner for the ordinary consumer. This butter may not be organic yet, but being guaranteed without additives is already a big leap...
I've received recently this spam from China, with the usual RE: as header to compell you to read : I fell in the trap and read the email, finding there an inspiring fellow, pretending to be first-named Jessica, who said she/he was working for a company making weedkillers and offered to sell me herbicides at good price, saying that she/he found on the Internet that I was looking for these products... Simply put, the Chinese marketing teams look on google for websites with content about herbicide and assume without finetuning their data that the webpages are managed by industrial farms or someone interested one way or another in herbicides. I thank them for this mistake because it helps me tell you about this nascent herbicide supplier on a humorous manner... I wrote back asking "Jessica" what types of herbicides they had in store, and in a swift reply I was told that they had "many other herbicide,glyphosate 360g/l, glyphosate 450g/l and Chlorsulfuron ,Propanil ,Isoproturon .... If you need any kind of goods in this filed, just email us."
I asked again, feigning interest for Atrazine, a forbidden herbicide here, and I got this answer :
Thanks for your email.
Atrazine 97% FOB Price USD 3300/MT
Packing: 25kg/bag 20kg/bag 200l/drum or as your need
Delivery time:within 2 weeks after receive your deposit
Payment: 50% T/T in advance as the deposit, the balance against copy of B/L
And if you need other stand,please don't hesitate to contact us again.
Thanks for your email.
Really bad news for Michael Moore : the company that he loves to hate could be out of business soon...
In a separate mail (actually a comment on this story), I got this from Greece :
We are from Greece and we are interesting for enzyms because we want to restart the fermantation to wine that stops. We would like to send us a catalog with all your products and if it's posible to sent them in Greece. Best Regards Konstantinos XXXXX
I'm slowly considering to become a broker in chemicals and additives, there seems to be plenty of manufacturers out there who are yearning for customers, and winemakers/growers who want more magic powders but don't know where to ask...
We opened the bottle last october (2012), I'm looking forward to the last couple of bottles I have from this vintage and producer.
I was invited recently at an event around several bubbly wines made by Alliance Loire, a group of 8 coopératives of the Loire region. The tasting which took place under the chief enologist of Alliance Loire narrowed around their own brand De Chanceny where you find both crémants de Loire and a sparkling Vouvray, Vouvray Brut Excellence. Even coops can do a good job with sparklings, and the first wine we had (pictured above) was indeed very pleasant. Here is a bubbly that sells for only 7,6 € and had eveything gentle you ask for an apéritif with bubbles, the smooth side of the bubbles and an undeniable aromatic character. The wine is made with Chenin Blanc (65 ), Chardonnay (20 %) and Cabernet Franc (15 %), all hand picked and fermented at low temperature (18 ° C or 64,4 F). The bottles are put laying down sur lattes for 18 to 24 months.
We were offered a verticale of the Vouvray Brut Excellence after having tasted the last available vintage, the 2011 : We had the 2010, the 2009, the 2007, the 2002 and the 2000. I don't remember which of the last two because I didn't take note, but one of the old vintages was particularly enjoyable (let's assume it was the 2002).
The fact sheet for the Vouvray Brut Excellence De Chanceny says that it's 100 % Chenin, softr-pressed and fermented at low temperature with 24 months sur lattes before disgorgement. Incidently I liked the wine because it was not overtly "Brut", sometimes you like the result of the dosage... The retail price for this Vouvray sparkling is 8,5 € (here for example).
We had an unexpected bonus with an even older Vouvray bubbly by this same coop, a 1983 (pictured left). Interesting curiosity but I think that the last vintages were better made.
This tasting took place in a restaurant worth a visit, La Cevicheria where two young women prepare marinated fish like in Peru. I'm not an expert on this food which I discovered here but I loved it.
Patrice Colin who made this sparkling rosé wine is known along Emile Hérédia as a king of pineau d'aunis in the Coteaux du Vendômois, a small sub-region of the Loire, and the bottle costing 8,9 € I thought I shouldn't miss it.
The wine is barely rosé, that why maybe the label says "perles grises" (gray pearls). The wine is unlike Champagne left fermenting alone in the bottle, without dosage, it has this classy spicy touch of pineau d'aunis, but in a very subtle manner, the skin and tannins having not had the time to imprint their full character. Patrice Colin sells this cuvée for 7,8 € tax included at the winery or through Internet, quite a good deal.
Very intense mouth feel with spicy aromas, the tannins were well integrated and refined, this was overall a well-mastered and powerful wine, and I could have kept this bottle many more years in the wine fridge and still enjoy it at a later stage. Taken by itself, the wine was for me closer to a New-World wine with an extraction and alcohol level higher than what I'm used to, but unexpectedly when sipped while eating Comté cheese, there was a nice exchange between the Comté's texture and the thin tannins of the wine.
Website of the Pelter winery
Speaking of Israel, archaeologists there ave unearthed recently near Nahariya (northern Israel) a 3700-year-old cellar dating from the Canaanite era, the place was packed with amphorae where scientists found wine residues. The analysis of the sediments sheds light on the type of wines stored there, they were definitely for high-end consumers and not the daily booze of the common man. Some of the jars contained red wine, others possibly white wine. An analysis of the sediments revealed that the wine also contained nuts, dried fruits, herbs and spices and other ingredients. The diggings and analysis are still underway and we should wait until 2015 to learn the full story.
Another important aspect of the research is that it states that these bacteria and fungi that make the wines of a region stand together grow on the skin of the grapes. This means that whatever you spray on your grapes and vineyard environment impacts these organisms. This sounds very much like what the biodynamic growers have been saying for years and it could explain why their wines stand out, these bacteria and fungi having been given free rein to live their micro lives, and they did their job and alchemy on the grapes and later on the juice.
Yet another lesson here is to appreciate the role of microbes, fungi and bacteria which the hygienists and French/European technocrats want us to consider as ennemies, even for artisan food. What is true for wine is true for cheese too and I can't but point again to a recent research [excerpt in French] by the French research body INRA where you learn from scientists not usually associated to traditional-farming apologists that raw-milk cheeses are host to a big microbian population that in fact renders the cheeses safer against listeria and other pathogens. But in spite of this scientific discovery the same mindless rules keep apply to raw-milk cheese farms, with sterilized lab rooms and other mind-boggling requirements that hamper the proper development of this rich microbian population.
Marks & Spencer has recently considered that muslim clerks could be allowed to refuse to serve shoppers buying alcohol and pork in the name of their own beliefs. Bigotry pays and step by step you will find more of such big companies ready to accomodate fanatics masquerading as devoutees, and this, in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism. This shouldn't stop with alcohol and pork of course, soon the usual suspects will demand to be allowed to refuse service for any product having to do with Israel, then female shoppers whose nice neck or sexy legs "offend" the bigots will be asked to find another cashier : "it's easy ma'am, you see over there, it's the only one without a headscarf".... I also imagine the brainstorming debate among Marks & Spencer excecutives in a couple of years : are bagels jewish enough to include them among the no-touch allowance for muslim clerks ?...
Responding to the uproar that ensued, the M&S spokesman at first had just the usual bland PC newspeak : “M&S promotes an environment free from discrimination and so, where specific requests are made, we will always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, whilst ensuring high levels of customer service.”.
Being ensured high levels of customer service means in my mind going shop elsewhere.
It was a matter of days before Marks & Spencer backtracked on this hot issue, feeling the heat from thousands of loyal customers who were indeed ready to shop elsewhere and do the word of mouth for others to do the same. It's both reassuring and worrying, here is a company that was ready to put in place some sort of Apartheid service instigated by supremacists, they sure backpedaled but this initial bowing to bigotry makes you doubt durably of the company.