Gaillac, Midi-Pyrénées, France
The wines from Gaillac (Midi-Pyrénées) exist on the map as wines of quality thanks to the hard work and determination of the Plageoles family. Robert Plageoles, who started the Domaine in 1805, took great pride in bringing back the lost indigenous varieties of the area. He researched and replanted a palette of indigenous varieties that were almost lost - as Mauzac Vert, Mauzac Noir, Ondenc, Duras, Musscadelle, and Prunelart. Nowadays, the Plageoles family is one of the oldest in the AOC; Robert’s son Bernard continued this work, and now his sons Florent and Romain have taken up the cause of natural wines in Gaillac, farming 20-hectares of vineyards. The terroir in Gaillac is made up of clay, limestone, sand and silex soils. Gaillac receives more sunshine than Bordeaux and is graced by a cool maritime climate.
Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wine. What’s the difference?
To understand this concept and its various ramifications, it is necessary to keep something clear in mind: before the 20th century and the spreading of affordable synthetic fertilisers, all farming was organic. When the shift to the use of synthetics and pesticides happened, it became necessary to diversify traditional organic farming from the new modern farming.
Simply put, organic farming forbids the use of synthetic fertilisers, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms. The basic requirements are generally specific and engage the farmers not to use any chemical fertilisers and other synthetic products in the vineyard. It does not prevent the vintner from using the conventional winemaking process after harvesting.
Let’s take organic farming one step further: Biodynamic. The creator of this agricultural system is the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who developed the principles of biodynamics in a series of lectures given in 1924 in Germany. Here lies the foundation of true organic wines, with a strict limit in the use of additives, stringent requirements and at the end obtaining a biodynamic certification.
The previous definitions are usually, and rightfully, associated with it, because most natural wine is also organic and/or biodynamic. But not vice versa!
Natural wine is wine in its purest form, simply described as nothing added, nothing taken away, just grapes fermented. No manipulation whatsoever, minimal intervention both in the vineyards and in the winery. Healthy grapes, natural yeast and natural fermentation, with no filtration nor fining. Sounds easy, right? However, making natural wine is unforgiving and it requires a bigger amount of work than conventional wine. To this day, natural wine has no certification yet.