Why is there so little Biodynamic wine in Bordeaux?

pontet canet horses
One of the 2009 wines that generated favorable comments at last week’s en primeur tastings in Bordeaux was Pontet-Canet in Pauillac. Over on Twitter, there was some confusion about the status of their Biodynamic certification. So I asked Alfred Tesseron who sent in a clarifying response that follows after the jump.

Given that Pontet-Canet is one of the rare properties in the Médoc (and Bordeaux, generally), I also asked the Twitterverse for their theories on why there isn’t more grape growing in the region done according to Biodynamics (a sort of homeopathic method guided by the celestial). Here are their <140 character replies, in chronological order of response:
@mrmansell: maybe bordeaux doesn’t need the gimmick to move wine?
@TimAtkin: It costs money. And would reduce profitability. Also it’s seen as Burgundian.
@JancisRobinson: In BDX commerce rules – v anti beard/sandal ethos. Plus, Atlantic rains bring extra problems. Ask A Tesseron at Pontet Canet.
@JossNOTJosh: Size of properties. 0.5 ha of Pommard much easier than 50 ha of Pauillac.
@waterintowino: maybe bordeaux wines arent as transparent and nuanced to show diff in biodynamics
@newbordeaux: I agree with Jancis and Joss – size of estates and climate here make it very difficult. But there are increasing numbers trying.
@kcoleuncorked: Because it’s not an area known for on-site, hands-on vignerons & small estates.

And the note from Alfred Tesseron of Pontet-Canet:

We started biodynamie for 14 hectares in 2004, in 2005 we did 100% on 81 hectares (200 acres), which is the total vineyard of Pontet-Canet so also for the vintage 2006.

In 2007 we had a strong pressure of mildew. I got scared that we might lose the crop and we used chimicals for one week. As soon as the pressure of mildew was over, we went back to biodynamie. From that experience, we learned and went back 100% for 2008 and also for 2009; We will receive sometime this year the certificate from ECOCERT. We are also with BIODIVIN.

Related: “2007 vintage verbatim: Nicolas Joly on biodynamics

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10 Responses to “Why is there so little Biodynamic wine in Bordeaux?”


  1. The question is probably better broken into two parts: 1) why don’t the classified growths have more Bio-D production, and 2) why don’t the huge amount of non-classified-but-still-AOC producers have more Bio-D?

    I think in the first case, they’re sitting on goldmines and don’t want to take the chance, and in the second case they can barely sell their wine every other year without having to send it off for distillation, and so probably aren’t making enough money to even think abotu going Bio-D at the moment.


  2. Because even the French are smart enough to know that a cow horn full of poo is still poo?


  3. Let us know when Michel Rolland goes biodynamic.


  4. Doesn’t Nicholas Joly spray with Copper Sulfate under Biodynamic?


  5. 1WineDude makes good points. And the humid unpredictable climate isn’t easy, which helps to explain why Bordeaux has such a long history of heavy use of chemical treatments. (It’s far, far easier to be biodynamic in Sonoma!)

    But here’s another heretical thought. Bordeaux – despite claims to the contrary – is simply NOT a very go ahead region. It is conservative and introspective, with all of the arrogance that tends to engender. The Burgundians led clonal and oak research; the Bordelais brought us work on cultured yeast (Dubourdieu), and little else. Research into screwcaps started in Bordeaux 1969 and more or less stopped in 1970. Little effort was made until recently into Merlot – and more particularly – Petit Verdot clones. Almost no work has been done on older Bordeaux grapes such as Malbec and Carmenere.


  6. Bordeaux mixture can be used in a biodynamic vineyard. Château La Tour Figeac is one of these. I just don’t think there is much desire to make the necessary changes.


  7. The trend is towards organic, rather than biodynamic in Bordeaux. In a couple of years there will be a substantial (relative) increase in the number of organic wines. I have visited a number of chateaux in the middle of converting over, which takes three years in France.


  8. Just tasted Ch le Puy, Cotes de Francs, 2004. Despite having being open for 3 days and made with v limited SO2, It was rich, ripe and plummy with attractive soft tannins. Proof of what can be done…


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