November 13th, 2014

A hymn to clutter

The vineyard I’m looking at from my window this morning is shaggy with chaotic vines, bristling with wild weeds and mottled by spots of mildew from the recent rains. Some years back I would have thought “what messy work” and today I find it just beautiful.
I learned to take care of vineyards before understanding the implication of each of my decisions on the potential of my wines. The notion that great wines start in the vineyards has always made sense to me. But between my eager beginnings and my earnest perspective today – there is a world of difference in how I approach vineyard management.


As an enthusiastic farmer, I started out wanting to follow all the rules before I understood which ones I could and should ignore. Throughout civilization, progress has always been associated with the order and modern viticulture is no different. At first, it makes sense to streamline practices to bring the vines everything they need and diminish their exposure to harmful pests and diseases. So the logic goes, in order to obtain the healthiest of grapes, a vineyard should be uncluttered and neat. I now know how untrue this simplistic approach is.

It is a mistake to impose our vision of order on nature, since nature already has its own organization and complex equilibrium. By trying to control everything, we rob it of its richness and limit its expression. I began making wines I enjoyed once I finally let go. Letting life back into my vineyards – native grasses, insects, native plants, mushrooms — going organic was obviously part and parcel of this approach. Once I chose this path I had to renounce my last reservations. That doesn’t mean that throughout the year I just stand idly by. On the contrary, I’m more vigilant because any imbalance will have major consequences on the quality of the harvest.

Avant AprèsI often make the parallel with children: when they are overprotected and get everything they want, they’re unable to develop their own personality. When they are neglected the effects are even worse. Whether it be children or vineyards, I am convinced that they gain in character, have much more interesting things to say, when they are nurtured in an environment where they learn to do without everything they desire. This is the equilibrium upon which my wines are founded.

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