The acclaimed winemaker and taster, Jules Chauvet, was one of the first to establish the link between great winemaking and thoughtful farming. Centuries ago, the wealth of the Beaujolais and the commitment to the land inspired a time of great prosperity - and great winemaking - in the region. The outbreak of World War II and the departure of many farmers to the frontlines saw their remaining family members search for easier ways in which to work the land. This resulted in the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides - anything that would do the work that a pioche, or garden hoe, previously did. Farmers were sold on the idea that the chemicals would not be harmful. However, the damage to the soil was done and, in many places, continues to be felt.
Michele and David are committed to the long-term stewardship and care of land in Beaujolais. As such, they have deliberately sought out parcels that have been mistreated or depleted of its natural life from chemical farming or over-ploughing. Their goal is to revitalize these parcels, bringing them back to life and returning them to as natural a state as possible.
Because of the steepness of the slopes in Chiroubles and Fleurie, the soil is worked manually with a cable plow and hand tools. In certain parts of the vineyards, Michele and David collaborate with a local farmer, Phillipe, who works the slopes with the help of his horse, Quadrille. Their approach harkens back to historic methods of farming and cultivating the land.
In the Fall, just after harvest is completed and the grapes are no longer on the vines, Michele and David welcome sheep from a local “eco-paturage” into the vineyards in both Chiroubles and Fleurie. In addition to providing them with pleasant company during their winter work, the sheep helpfully eat the “mauvaise herbes” that litter the soil, contribute to the maintenance of a healthy micro-biome and, of course, provide natural fertilizer for the cover crops distributed between the rows. While Michele and David are grateful to collaborate with local farmers who are increasingly committed to the symbiotic relationship between animals and the land. This signals a meaningful shift in farming in Beaujolais, which is now experiencing a renewed commitment to organic viticulture and farming. For both vignerons who benefit from the sheep’s presence and the local community who are thrilled to see a throwback to the farming techniques their grandparents once used, the sheep represent a newfound commitment to the land and to the farmers acting as its stewards.
Written by Aditya Rau