Culture of the vine at Coulaine

Vine has been cultivated at Coulaine since 1434, which is certified by the family archives: a harvest diary is kept from 1787 to 1824. We do not know yet what happened between 1824 and 1950, when my grandfather started to exploit his 2ha of vines and to replant. But we know that the vineyard suffered from phylloxera like everyone. Chemicals have never been used on Coulaine’s vineyard: so the vines near the castle have been organic since 600 years! This represents more than half our surface, the rest is officially converted in 1994-1997.

Here, you will discover the terroirs of our wines, our definition of organic agriculture and our projects to move forward.

The terroirs of our wines

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The clayey gravel

We find them in our cuvee Les Pieds Rôtis, one of our two white Chinon. They are deep soils maintaining nutrients and water well, but particularly hard to work if they are not taken at the right time. We have to take care how to pass our tools (disc ploughs, intercep) when the rain fell and seeped in, which allows the soil to be soften. Otherwise it is literally concrete and ploughshares bounce off it.

The “millarges”

Those soils called “millarges” on the Chinon’s appellation are present in our cuvees Château de Coulaine and a bit in the Clos de Turpenay. They are made of shell sands mixed with limes. Those sands are easy to work but their water retention is low. They are suitable for classic, fruity and fresh reds. However, weeds grow easily and quickly on it, especially quackgrass. And sometimes tools tend to sink a bit too much …

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The clay-limestone

We find them in La Diablesse, one of our plot-based cuvee. Those soils are pleasant to work, they have a balanced consistency, sometimes with an abundance of pieces of tuffeau  at Picasses, which aerate and warm the soil by storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. The clay-content also varies, depending on the location: often there is more clay from the middle of the slope to the bottom than at the top. They are terroirs that produce the wines with the most aromatic complexity and the best storage potential, particularly if they are combined with a slope that benefits the exposure of the foliage. The nature of the tuffeau also plays a role: white, it will give more mineral and precise wines like the Picasses or La Diablesse. Yellow, it will result in more austere and sanguine wines like the Clos de Turpenay.

The Clayey sands

Those terroirs are mostly on Bonnaventure and a bit on Château de Coulaine. They are quite heavy soils in their most clayey part, which stick quickly when it rains and takes time to dry. Those sands allow to aerate the soil, to make easier draining and oxygen circulation. Those terroirs are productive, we need to control them by a slightly shorter pruning, and it is not as necessary to apply fertilizer in the form of composted manure. The white tuffeau is never far away and the wines produced on those terroirs are more powerful than the one on sands, with more tannins, especially the warm years like 2018 or 2015: it also emerges aromas of ripe fruit and smoke. A 10 months ageing in a wooden tank will soften this matter while emphasizing its sanguine texture.

Some figures

Number of bottles per year : 80000 | Planted surface: 19.5 hectare (Red : 16 ha, White : 3.5 ha) 

Red grape : Cabernet franc (100%) | White grape: Chenin (100%) | Harvesting method: Manual         

Average age of vines : 40

Our vision of organic labour

Since 1997, the estate has been certified in organic agriculture: the first one at Chinon. However, the thinking started much earlier, because the willing to work the soils mechanically and without using herbicide had already been in the air since the refoundation of the estate in 1989.

At their time, my parents had only a few hectares, some old tools and a lot of elbow grease. On the top of that, chemicals were much more armful and used at higher rates than today beside being more expensive. According to their tastes, they noticed empirically that the wines were richer, more complex and alive when the wine flourished on laboured soils and rested from chemical attacks. Indeed, since the second and third agricultural revolution (mechanisation and chemistry), soils have been mistreated, sprayed with weedkillers, scraped and turned over from top to bottom: so that they are maintained only by exogenous inputs (chemical).

Switching to organic farming means that the majority of synthetic chemicals are no longer used for phytosanitary treatments and weed control. Apart from sulphur and copper, which we are using far below the French and Europeans standards (on average 1kg of active copper per hectare against 4kg allowed), we also use natural pest repellents (deer, butterflies…).
Being in organic agriculture does not mean not to treat, but to limit excesses and facilitate the biological control by seeing the others plants and insects as assistant and not only as enemies and to be more conciliatory between our work and the respect of our common environment.

Organic viticulture is based on ancient technics dating back to the Middle Age and Antiquity: observations on the field, tests and solid results on several centuries, with acceleration in recent decades thanks to technical progress: crossbreeding, mechanics, chemistry (for soil analysis, new biological control products …). In short, it combines the best of empiricism and human memory with agronomic and ecological progress.

Beware, organic viticulture is in constant evolution and is not stuck in the 19th century nor in the Middle Age! Now, agronomic works around soil-fertility show the importance of vegetation cover, which helps to maintain or upgrade intrinsic fertility of winegrowing systems. We are now thinking about working less the soil between the rows, preserving the naturel cover or sowing mixtures of nutritive plants for the vines, as well as the implementation of natural mating disruption (pheromones) to fight against the proliferations of grapevine pests.

We use to see comparison of products that might be used particularly on organic wines and the others biodynamic and natural wines. Just know that except sulphur and nitrogenous complements (organic material), that we add at lower doses, our wines might be qualified as natural (<30mg/L of SO2 in total), we don’t add anything more. Organic agriculture is in addition certified by an independent organism twice a year, with sampling of bottles, leaves, soils and a administrative control: which is not necessary the case with the other labels. 

Travail du sol en bio

A shelter for birds and small fauna

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Since 2020, a census has been led by the Birds Protection League (LPO). It then aims to establish the refugee status, which obliges to respect measures in favour of birds: to respect their habitat and habits. 80 different species have been identified, such as kestrels, yellow sparrow or peacocks bullfinch, which is quit exceptional and reveals the quality of the area.

The goal is that the entire area shown here has this status, but the limit has still to be define. The continuity is very interesting: from north to south: sandy plateaus with southern trees, the 7-hectare park with the three-hundred-year-old cedars, the area of ancient habitats and then organically cultivated fields including our vines and finally the bocage near the Vienne river. We are going to preserve the bocage zone, which is exploited in organic by a local farmer and mowed only once a year. The area currently cultivated with vines will be doubled with a high-stemmed orchard more suitable for the habitat of small fauna on 2-hectares of apple and cider pear trees, raspberry trees, cherry trees and corm trees in the place of a field exploited until now in chemistry and classic wheat-maize-sunflower. Solognot sheep, a preserved and not very common breed, are already grazing in the vineyards.

We have the willing to make this place a preserved haven of peace in the service of animals but not only. Indeed, if we plant and preserve it is also to live: it will not be a virgin area left to Nature’s willing alone, not everywhere in any case. We think that we can live in harmony with it and for this purpose we are committed to use biological techniques and to limit treatments: even the organic one in this area. We make the bet that bird and bat diversity will regulate pests, and the trees planted in the vineyard will help to limit frost and will provide shade in hot summers.