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What does sustainably-made champagnes mean?
Friday March 24th, 2017
You may have heard about sustainable agriculture. But have you ever heard about sustainably made champagnes? Read this blog post to learn more about their main characteristics.
Sustainable agriculture refers to the ability of a farm, or a winegrower in our case, to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Sustainable growing methods are also used by a few champagne producers and are an interesting alternative to organic champagnes.
Winegrowers introduced the principles of sustainable agriculture in the early 2000s, by dramatically reducing the use of pesticides and replacing them by other more eco-friendly measures. Champagne sustainable winegrowers use no genetically modified material, prune their vines intensively in order to get smaller yields but better fruits, use natural or wild yeast, no filtration or freezing, no animal clarifying agents, and age their wines during 3 or 4 and even up to 7 years so that the finesse and layers of flavours can develop. Changes covered by the sustainability initiative also include critical activities of preventing soil erosion, managing water supplies and runoff, constructing more efficient buildings, and reducing transportation emissions.
In order to understand the current usage of pesticides, let’s briefly look back to the period following the Second World War. France embarked on an industrialized agriculture policy. It was imperative to produce as much as possible to rebuild the country’s economy. Champagne was no exception and between 1950 and 1980 the surface area planted with vines more than doubled, increasing from 11,000 to 24,600 hectares. But in the same period, champagne sales had multiplied by five. In order to keep up with this increasing demand, the inter-professional research center of the Champagne Bureau (a.k.a. CIVC or Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne) focused its activity on developing ways to increase yields and boost the economic growth. In their own vineyards they developed and tested higher producing clones and fertilizers with a high nitrogen content, as well as different herbicides and pesticides.
Organic wine producers only use naturally produced grapes from healthy soils. Their harvesting methods are similar to those employed by farmers in the late 1800s and for consumers, this means that grapes are free of pesticides, fertilisers, and chemical fungicides. In addition, any form of rotting and mildew that the grapes may be subjected to are treated and controlled using purely natural methods. Producing a 100% organic product is however difficult in the Champagne area because soil and weather conditions are conducive to the development of bacterias. Therefore, the vine quality depends on constant meticulous and costly maintenance operations. The alternative to 100% organic wine growing is sustainable agriculture.
At Langrée & Stahel, we select outstanding quality champagnes produced with sustainable growing method. Our selection of champagnes is based on the quality of the wine and the way the producers treat their ecosystem. With winegrowers using a sustainable agriculture, we can provide our customers with an affordable product that is also environmental-friendly.