From organic and sustainable to low-interventionist and biodynamic, the variety in viticultural philosophies used by winemakers around the world is astounding. In Burgundy, some of these methodologies were first embraced by a few forward-thinking domaines back in the 1980s and are becoming ever more prevalent in the region as new generations of winemakers are having to deal with the effects of the changing climate.

The plethora of domaines in Burgundy is only surpassed by the array of nature forward approaches to winemaking. With varied terminology and an ever changing viticultural landscape, here are some brief definitions for the main types of ‘green’ viticulture you can find in Burgundy to provide some clarity:

  • An organic approach tends to cover the entire process of wine production, from vine to bottle. The vineyards are interspersed with different plants to increase biodiversity and there is no use of chemical pesticides, weedkillers or the like. In the cellar, there is little to no manipulation of the wines, such as filtration or the addition of sulphites. Since 2012, organic wines in Burgundy have been officially regulated by a European charter.
  • In addition to the above organic principles, domaines which follow sustainable viticulture try to express the authenticity of both the grapes and the terroir and place an emphasis on leaving the land in good or better condition for future generations.
  • Biodynamic wineries exclusively use natural products in the vineyards, but also combines science and spirituality, viewing the vineyard as a single living organism. Some biodynamic domaines also follow the lunar calendar or the constellations to decide when to plant, prune and harvest.
  • In comparison to large scale, commercial wine producers, domaines which adhere to culture raisonnée, or lutte raisonnée, use less chemicals less aggressively so they do not become routine. However, even this sparing use of chemicals means that they are excluded from being certified as organic or biodynamic.
  • The low intervention or natural method of wine production is reasonably self-explanatory and encompasses both the work in the vineyard and in the cellar. Domaines which follow this approach take the organic and biodynamic methods a step further and there is minimal intervention from the winemaker. This often includes prohibiting additions or subtractions or sugar, acids, yeasts, enzymes or sulphur, and the wines are not fined or filtered before bottling.

Due to the nature and the historic way in which many of these methods were developed, it is important to note that there are vast discrepancies in these definitions from country to country and regulations can vary too.

Why Burgundy, Why Now?

Burgundian producers are known the world over for their ability to celebrate and express the rich terroir. As the underlying ethos of these ‘green’ practices is to protect and sustain the soil and biodiversity of these areas, it is little surprise there is an abundance of domaines in Burgundy adopting these methods. According to a climate study from the Université Bourgogne-Franche-Comte in 2020, Burgundy’s climate and environment has dramatically changed from 20 years ago, with temperatures warming year on year. Although the increases in temperature can pose certain problems for winemakers, in Burgundy this has enabled a greater number of domaines to turn to nature focused techniques. With higher temperatures comes an increase in sunlight and therefore a reduction in the pressure of mildew – traditionally the bane of winemakers in Burgundy. This means that domaines can limit the use, or excessive use, of chemical sprays and pesticides. Warmer temperatures also lead to harvests happening earlier in the year, sometimes allowing winemakers to avoid autumn rainfalls that can damage their grapes. In addition, the new, younger generation of winemakers taking up the reigns in Burgundy are more conscious of their environmental footprints. Through methods like low-intervention and lutte raisonnée, they are able to irrigate more efficiently, save water, encourage wildlife and preserve their plots for the future.

This shift in mentality towards caring for the land, plants and animals is mirrored in the desires of the consumer. As people become more aware of the need to protect the environment their purchasing choices change, from single-use plastic to reusable materials. The same is true when buying wine, as consumers increasingly look for products that reflect their own views – from the contents of the wine bottle to the wooden cases it’s transported in.

Data from Agriculture Biologique en Bourgogne shows that the number of new domaines filing applications for organic certification is continually increasing. In Chablis, 17% of all vineyards are now fully organic. As more and more winemakers opt for ‘greener’ production methods a greater area of Burgundy is being safeguarded for the future. This ties in with the announcement made last year by Laurent Delaunay, President of the Bureau Interprofessionel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), that Burgundy would aim for carbon neutrality by 2035 – a full ahead fifteen years ahead of the country-wide 2050 carbon neutral target. The official plan is set to be in place later this year, however it will involve the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the planting of hedges, cover-crops and forests.

Producer Focus

These nature forward approaches are increasingly used by domaines of all shapes and sizes, from the smallest independent producers to some of the biggest names in the region – for example, since 2019 95% of the vineyards at Louis Jadot are farmed organically.

Here are a few of our favourite Burgundian domaines which fall into the ‘green’ category:

Bouchard Pere et Fils - Culture Raisonnée

Burgundy 2021

Those in the vineyards are amongst the first to feel the impact of the changing climate, with warmer temperatures and more frequent hailstorms being but a couple of the problems winemakers have to work around. Even with more and more domaines introducing nature forward approaches to their winemaking, the spring frosts in 2021 heavily impacted vines across Burgundy, and the knock-on effects are clear through the reduced quantity of the 2021 En Primeur campaign.

Make sure to keep up to date with the latest releases and our recommendations for Burgundy En Primeur 2021

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