ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Text from the ARTE FILM « Pure Nature » (2000)
The Romans spread the cultivation of olive trees throughout their entire empire. Principally, they believed that olive oil and wine bring a long life. Today we know that red wine and olive oil – in the correct dosage – may actually prevent heart and circulatory diseases.  Isn’t it even more important to keep these basic foods pure and without chemical additives, just for this reason?

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

One of the fundamental rules of organic farming is a closed nutrient cycle. This means that only natural fertilisers may be spread out on the fields. Therefore, this economy is mostly associated with animal husbandry. The sheep at Richeaume live in an open barn or are put on mountain pastures, being thus exposed to natural climatic stimuli.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

The size of the flock depends on the amount of food our own cultivation provides. For agriculture, animal breeding, olives and vines form an entity and their products are complementary. Due to mixed crop agriculture, there are always fields that are planted with a cover crop, used as animal food.  The necessary straw is furnished by growing grains. In return, the animals provide valuable manure, which benefits as a natural fertiliser.  However, instead of being directly applied, sheep manure is mixed with straw and pomace, the waste product of grapes, and turned into compost before being spread out on the farmland.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Henning Hoesch: « First, we’ll have to remove the coverage protecting the valuable compost. It’s in the deeper layers where you may find the fresh compost, which is now eight months old. This is a mass that is derived from sheep manure and smells like earth today, teeming with microorganisms. »Above all, organic farming means maintenance of the soils. Intensive use and the quest for maximum yields are incompatible with this type of agriculture. But the vicious circle of artificial fertilisation, development of new generations of pests and the appropriate pest control, will only be interrupted by a new concept in understanding natural cycles.

ecologie

RECYCLING INSTEAD OF A ONE WAY ROAD

The basics of agricultural production derive from ancient times and were related to the « Oikos ». This means the diversity of the products and the organisation of running a house. An interaction of plants, animals, natural products and their by-products now frequently cited contradiction between economy and ecology one should keep in mind that both words are also etymologically related to the old Greek term « oikos ». Economy and nature are a « home made » entity. At Domaine Richeaume we are convinced that nature is the best economic manager.

RECYCLING INSTEAD OF A ONE WAY ROAD

The realization of genuine quality products, products of identity, and with a sustainable pay off, regarding recycling and economy on water and energy, may be achieved only by natural methods.
Wine is our most precious product within this ecological unity. Surrounding the vineyards, for example, you will find traditional crops grown without herbicides or synthetic insecticides, natural livestock put on natural pastures and the production of olives.

RECYCLING INSTEAD OF A ONE WAY ROAD

Polyculture instead of monoculture. The end products of this natural compound system are lead back into the cycle – to the advantage of the vineyards and the environment. The idea of an ecologically cyclical process is also expressed by Domaine Richeaume’s label which has a circle cut out of the label so that one can see the wine appearing in the open inner space.

energie

NATURAL AUTONOMY

Ecological agriculture also means sustainable and low energy production, an example of which is the method of generation of energy on the Domaine Richeaume. For a long period the electric current has been furnished by solar cells and the temperature control of the cellar is regulated by a water tank on the roof filled with water from our own source.

NATURAL AUTONOMY

Long before « recycling » became a commonly used term, Domaine Richeaume applied recycling principles. The quantities of products fabricated with other types of energy that are necessarily to be bought, are reduced to the minimum. Neither fertilisers from outside, nor synthetic products for cultivation are used on the domaine. Fertilisation of the lots is done with compost from the manure of our sheep. The sheep are fed with fodder grown on the heavy soils. This means the system is an almost self-supporting cycle of fertilising, growth of fodder and generation of energy.

climat

A SPECIAL CLIMATE WILL CREATE A SPECIAL WINE

The Mont Sainte Victoire creates its own microclimate. This famous mountain of limestone, extending in an east-west direction, from Aix to Puyloubier, moderates the force of the strong Mistral wind sweeping down the Rhone Valley. It proves to be an important assistant of the vine grower because after heavy rainfall it will rapidly dry the vegetation, thereby preventing vine infections due to humidity or mildew. Consequently the application of copper sulphate may be reduced to a minimum with a positive effect on healthy soils.

A SPECIAL CLIMATE WILL CREATE A SPECIAL WINE

A distance of 30 km from the sea and an altitude of 300 metres above sea level, together with cool nights in early autumn, ensures a slow and balanced ripening of the grapes. In this way the microclimate at the foothills is contributing to healthy wines, with a good structure and round and mellow body, clear-cut fruitiness and well incorporated tannins that especially holds for the red wines. The white and rosé wines have a more mineralic and dry character; however the climate may also stress the different type of vine.

sol

TERROIR DEVELOPS WHERE SOILS COME TO LIFE

The natural consistency of the characteristic red soils of Domaine Richeaume is perfectly suited for organic fertilisation. Essential quantities of limestone will absorb high iron concentrations and play an important role in the decomposition of plant residues – like grass, leaves and vine shoots – while water is bound by clay elements.
Therefore the soils are receptive to organic fertilisation. The latter is indispensable in order to stimulate microbiological activity, the most important ally for grape growing, and consequently used at the domaine to cultivate the topsoil layers. Only a healthy soil flora will fully express/unfold the potential of grapes.

TERROIR DEVELOPS WHERE SOILS COME TO LIFE

>Domaine Richeaume use manure from their own herd of some 150 sheep for compost production. A cover crop of oat, vetches and other leguminous plants will build up and benefit soil structure in conjunction with the compost. Therefore, the purchase of manure or other synthetic activators of plant growth are not needed.

TERROIR DEVELOPS WHERE SOILS COME TO LIFE

The vines are forced to root deeply by the growth of the cover crop (bad weeds being a misnomer at the domaine), which is exactly the aim of the wine grower. Cover crop forms an entire ecosystem, comprising bacteria nodules at the roots of the leguminous plants, as well as « highways » for microorganisms and other micro flora at the surface. Thus the accelerated creation of humus guarantees soil fertility. The wine of Domaine Richeaume is the true portrait of the natural features of its habitat and thus the product of a micro-terroir with its very particular fingerprint.

THE CHARACTER OF RICHEAUME WINESN

« Quality before quantity » is as fundamental principle at Domaine Richeaume. Far before ripeness, grape quality is improved through green harvest, to lower the yields. Very strict pruning guarantees grape quality while yields are reduced to 20 hectolitres a hectare, whereas the appellation d’origine allows up to 55 hl/ha.

THE CHARACTER OF RICHEAUME WINES

Naturally, pesticides have been banned from our vineyards, and pest control is left to beneficial insects. The rules of organic farming are regularly controlled by an independent, consumer oriented organization called Qualité de France . Due to organic farming, the particularity of the soils and the microclimate, Domaine Richeaume wines really deserve to be regarded as terroir wines.

THE CHARACTER OF RICHEAUME WINES

Even the choice of grape varieties underlines this aspiration: at Domaine Richeaume we were convinced from the very beginning, that Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Bordeaux and the Syrah grapes from the Rhône would appreciate the sunny climate of Provence. Furthermore, the existing vineyards of more than 60 year-old traditional grape varieties Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan have been preserved. In addition to the existing Clairette vines from the fifties, Sauvignon blanc and Viognier have been planted. To us, the creation of personal wines with a distinctive character, is only possible with a certain free choice beyond the restricting rules of AOC classification

cave

THE NATURAL WAY FROM GRAPES TO WINE

The most important building at the Domaine Richeaume is the wine cellar. It is entirely under Sylvain Hoesch’s care. Wine making is done as naturally as wine growing, using techniques without oenological additives. Preservation of grape quality is the main objective.
From the vineyards the harvest is immediately transported in small trailers to the roof above the fermentation cellar. From here, grapes reach the fermentation tanks by gravity, without pumping, while carbon dioxide collected from neighbouring tanks protects the grapes from oxidation.

THE NATURAL WAY FROM GRAPES TO WINE

Hereafter, each grape variety is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks, using only wild yeasts naturally present on the grape skins. At the beginning of maceration, the skin cap on top of the fermenting must is pushed down twice a day to optimize tannin extraction. Afterwards, the wines will ripen for up to 18 months in small new oak barrels.

THE NATURAL WAY FROM GRAPES TO WINE

The cellar is also integrated in to the natural life cycle of the estate: solar collectors provide the required temperature for optimum fermentation and biological stability. A shallow water basin, situated on top of the wine cellar, fed by a natural spring on the estate, guarantees an annual cellar temperature of 14° Celsius.Scrupulous cleanliness at every step of wine production warrants a healthy development of the young wine. Hence, minimum quantities of sulphur are needed to conserve the wines, mainly coming from sulphurization of empty barrels before filling.All this together results in natural, premium quality wines – under controlled production from the vineyards to the bottle