Bordeaux’s Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners – This is the first of a six-part series of talks on the evolution of sustainable grapes in Bordeaux.

As the CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council) reports that 75% of Bordeaux grapes now have sustainable certification (up from 65% in 2019), I wanted to take a closer look at the different brands and certifications involved.

Bordeaux’s Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners

Bordeaux's Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners

Organic and biodynamic may be familiar to consumers, but what do they really mean? What other certifications are given to French winegrowers? Who is leading them? Who subscribes?

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If all these labels claim to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, how will farmers choose to sign up?

The more I looked, the more brands, certifications and associations I found in France – a disparity that confuses consumers and businesses. So I’ll post what I’ve found over a series of six posts, to keep your thoughts flowing, too.

It is not possible to track the various activities in individual properties, associations and appeals; every time I look, I see something new. Apologies if I’ve forgotten any (you?) but please let me know if I do and I’ll be happy to add them in a future post.

I will be looking at ISO, HVE, Terra Vitis, Bio (organic), Biodynamic, and other organizations and programs that include ecosystems, forestry, etc., not forgetting the impact of sustainable living and other issues around the world. some decisions.

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These certifications are not unique: they have overlapping characteristics, and the same vines will have multiple certifications. I don’t want to use the word hierarchy, because that implies a very clear hierarchy, but it seems to be a process, a process of degrees that creators can advance. Some carefully take it step by step, others do not fully understand it.

Bordeaux has (2021)

It has the largest area of ​​certified vineyards in France (13,900 ha in 2019), the largest number of growers certified by HVE (Haute Valeur Environnementale) and the largest number of biodynamic characteristics of Demeter.

Bordeaux's Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners

Most of the properties in Bordeaux are family owned. With family ownership comes the idea of ​​stewardship; the belief that the existing land must be taken care of and passed on to future generations. There is also a native understanding of the dangers of poisoning when it is your family outside the vineyard.

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Some farmers do not want to register to get a sustainable certificate. The uncertainty of Bordeaux’s climate is often mentioned. The warm climate of western France is a breeding ground for mildew, oidium and botrytis, so winemakers must find effective ways to combat fungal diseases. The fear of losing the plant is real if their hands are tied and they cannot handle the oidium affected grape.

Wine growers (all growers?) are an independent bunch, and they don’t like to be told what to do. Many environmentalists prefer to blame it on themselves instead of putting in serious effort.

Those who sign up for the decision, and put their money where their mouth is, often have negative opinions about others who use the word without question.

Does the customer understand the environmental label? Increasing consumer awareness has created a responsibility to care about food additives. A well-known property with a loyal following and a long history may not need to increase their approval of the wine label, for others it is a way to attract new customers or if it is required to enter the same market. There are economic as well as environmental and philosophical arguments. In 2019, sales of certified organic Bordeaux wines increased by 6% in volume and 9% in value and represented 5% of all Bordeaux sales (up from 4.3% in 2018).

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As hand-crafted bottles are unique, logos, labels and certificates provide proof and credibility. For example, from mid-January 2022, 50 wine shops across the Bordeaux region will promote the month of ‘Vins Engages de Bordeaux’ to select wines certified with sustainability credentials.

The concept of sustainability is bigger than the life of the land. It includes economic power, the success of the people living on the land, their physical and economic health. A living wage, but also a way of working. In a recent post I talked about recruitment issues; their welfare is essential if winemakers want to recruit and retain workers in the vineyard.

A new design with heat pumps (as at Château Pontet Canet) to reduce energy consumption, and solar panels to provide green energy is part of the equation. Château Chasse-Spleen in Moulis is self-sufficient in energy thanks to solar radiation, and Château Lagrange has installed 800 m

Bordeaux's Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners

The copper argument appears all the time. Copper, in the Bordeaux mixture, is acceptable in organic and biodynamic terms, although it is minuscule. Some argue that, given the history of grapevine treatments, they are very rare, and that synthetic chemical treatments are the best long-term solution for soil health.

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Cultivation and tillage between rows of vines is a more environmentally friendly method of weed control than weeding. Cultivation between vines forces the vine roots to the ground, promoting drought-resistant roots as well as eliminating weeds.

It can, however, dry out the soil and release stored carbon in the soil (releasing more carbon dioxide), encourage soil loss through erosion, and kill microbial life. Planting green cover crops between vines increases the life of the soil, returning it to work as a green manure.

Some plants, however, like bedding plants, are very prolific and tilling can spread them out rather than cutting them back – look, it’s not easy!

In 2010, Bordeaux was the first wine region to measure its carbon footprint. An online carbon calculator, available to all manufacturers and retailers, helps them better understand how carbon savings can be made.

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Organic treatments can wash off easily in the summer and need to be reapplied more often than systemic treatments. Sending tractors through the vineyards more often also increases the vineyard’s carbon footprint, as well as costing more.

Planting trees and organic matter captures carbon, but large-scale fermentation produces large amounts of carbon. Château Smith Haut Lafitte, in their neutral cellars, and Château Montrose first capture the carbon produced during fermentation.

As I talked with the producers, it became clear that there is no easy answer to the question of how to farm sustainably. This is not surprising in a large region like Bordeaux, with its terroir, microclimates, owner structures, but also philosophy. Shareholders are different from partners, family members or companies, do not always have the same beliefs or share the same priorities, and the financial constraints are very different from property to property.

Bordeaux's Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners

Wine growers cannot and do not work in perfect isolation. What they do affects the neighborhood. Sexual confusion is a good example; placing pheromone traps in your vines to control moths will only work if your neighbors do the same.

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Bordeaux winemakers are used to working together in the appellation organization (ODG, Organisme de Défense et Gestion) which includes quality control and marketing activities. Many of the appeals already include environmental goals in their guidelines. In 2020 I wrote about the general program ‘Margaux, Terroir de Biodiversité’. In Saint Emilion, 60% of the farmers here were already certified, or involved in 2019. As of 1

The ODG of Medoc, Haut Medoc and Listrac will also require every farmer to have at least a level of HVE (Haute Valeur Environnementale) to be allowed to appeal by 2023.

In February 2020 Crus Bourgogne announced the latest categories. It also presents the history of the three categories of Cru Bourgogne, Cru Bourgogne Supérieur and Cru Bourgogne Exceptionnel. The category was given by independent judges, based on a blind tasting, but the responsibility of participating in the certification of the HVE was a criterion of eligibility.

Cooperatives are the poster child for cooperative agriculture – the evidence is in the name. It is no wonder then that they have implemented their own sustainable label called Agriconfidence.

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This ensures that the grape growers in the cooperative use sustainable methods: reducing inputs, managing waste and natural resources. It also ensures that winemaking cooperatives adhere to sustainable production practices. In 2020, 485 Bordeaux growers, covering 18,743 hectares, were certified by Agriconfiance.

The CIVB (Bordeaux Wine Council) has led a program to support winemakers in their journey towards sustainable production. Converting to sustainable, organic or organic agriculture is a long and expensive process both financially and – especially for family-run vineyards – in terms of time and expertise.

SME (Environmental Management System), or EMS – Environmental Management System in English) was introduced in 2010 to help rationalize and implement certain decisions.

Bordeaux's Energy Performance Certificates: What They Mean For Property Owners

This collaborative management tool helps individual estates work together to improve the environment, achieve sustainability, and accelerate change while fostering community awareness. It is open to all Bordeaux players, (châteaux,

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