ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Text from the ARTE FILM « Pure Nature » (2000)
Domaine Richeaume is an estate situated in the heart of Provence, where the grain fields, vineyards and olive groves are cultivated according to ecological criteria. Everything we do reflects our respect for the environment – everything is done rationally and sparingly and fits into the organic cycle.
The sensitivity of the natural balance, and how much organic farming may contribute to sustain the environment by not disturbing this delicate balance, is especially demonstrated by wine, one of the most precious agricultural products. Soil, air and water form a dynamic system, whereas vineyards form a monoculture, lasting at best for some 50 to 100 years. Therefore it is even more important to keep the soil healthy and alive.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Growing ground covers between the vines enhances biodiversity. Here sweet peas, barley and oats have been sown in the vineyards. Their roots penetrate the soil, provide nutrients and protect the soils from erosion and drought, both of which are quite frequent problems under a Mediterranean climate. The flowers and weeds also attract insects and draw them away from the vines. Additionally, clover is grown to supply nutrients to the soil.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

During the cold season dense vegetation covers the soil under the vines. Farm workers remove the wild grass in spring, before they start competing with the vines for nutrients. The ground cover in between the rows, however, is preserved at this moment. Small leaves are cut off the vines, in order to prevent needless offshoots. Later in season, when soil nutrients are sparse, the ground cover is chopped as well and left as an organic fertiliser.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Mildew is the greatest enemy of vines. It’s a parasitical fungus that afflicts both vines and roses. Roses are planted in the vineyards because they are the first to attract mildew and thus raise the alarm for a forthcoming attack. This leaves enough time to protect the vines by dispersing small amounts of natural sulphur powder on the plants.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Henning Hoesch: « The challenge of organic farming is to be able to compete with other products on the general market where business rivalry is high. It all depends on the quality of the product and we are convinced that natural and gentle production methods provide a noticeable edge in the quality of our products.  »

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

The wine, is produced at the estate-owned winery. Water balance also plays an important role in the development of wine. Fortunately, Richeaume has its own source of water from a natural spring. Water for human purposes, animals and plants is maintained in a natural cycle. Drained from the vineyards, as vines do not like « wet feet », it is stored in a basin and used to cool the wine cellar underneath. At the same time specific collectors catch solar energy to heat another part of the cellar, where the second fermentation takes place. Besides the fact that organic wine is made from untreated grapes, the wine production differs significantly from the conventional way.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Henning Hoesch: « Its very important to emphasize, that due to minimal treatments in the vineyards, we preserve the entire yeast population on the surface of our grapes. And we can use these yeasts completely for fermentation, without further additives.

ORGANIC VITICULTURE AT DOMAINE RICHEAUME

Second fermentation, where malic acid is converted into lactic acid, takes place in these barrels. It has been preceded by the first fermentation, lasting about three weeks, during which the desired amount of tannins is extracted from the skins. Later on, the right proportion of tannins will be an important criterion to assess the quality of the wine.
In the next step, the fermented grape juice has to mature to become wine and will ripen for two more years. This is done in barrels called  » Barriques ».
Organic farming, which originates from a holistic concept, involves additional expenses though, by producing higher quality wines, this pays off.

MAN AND LANDSCAPE ARE INFLUENCING EACH OTHER

The Richeaume story begins in the United States of America, when Henning Hoesch was teaching canonical law at Yale University. There he realized that progress was so often achieved at the cost of nature.  Consequently, he looked for a place to put his vision of a return back to agricultural traditions into reality. In 1972, together with his wife Julia, between Rousset and Puyloubier he found  Domaine Richeaume, comprising an area of 65 hectares.

MAN AND LANDSCAPE ARE INFLUENCING EACH OTHER

The Domaine lies in the foothills of Mont Sainte Victoire which inspired the painter Paul Cezanne to paint some of his most famous landscapes. Numerous Roman relics have been found and the Templers were there in the medieval period.
In 1972 the Domaine was largely dilapidated and producing a low quality « mass production » wine. This was the starting point for Henning Hoesch to realise his dream of building an ecological sound agricultural business [when terms like « bio » and « ecology » were scarcely known]. Starting from just 3 hectares under cultivation, over the following decades extensive terraces were built on the most favourable places to produce top quality wines like « Les Terrasses » and « Cuvée Columelle ».

MAN AND LANDSCAPE ARE INFLUENCING EACH OTHER

Both of these wines are highly classified by experts and wine critics including Parker and Johnson.
Today, Domaine Richeaume reflects the passion of Henning Hoesch: inspired by the grandeur of the landscape he has established a successful ecological business whilst restoring the old buildings and constructing an architecturally stunning cellar complex. Henning Hoesch and Domaine Richeaume have brought the best out in each other.

PASSION AND INDIVUADLISM UNITED

In 1972 Henning Hoesch , who was born in 1940, abandoned his career in scientific teaching at Yale and settled as a pioneer in ecological  agriculture and wine growing at Domaine Richeaume. A holistic approach, natural production of wine and biological cultivation are equally important for his wine. Top quality and ecology do not exclude each other and are preconditions to everything at Domaine Richeaume. He is a convinced individualist who puts more stress on his beliefs than following well-defined ideologies, fictions or dogmas. His unwavering independence may be the reason for the unmistakable identity of his wines, which are frequently produced without regard to the limiting rules of the AOC (Appellation d’Origine  Controlée).

PASSION AND INDIVUADLISM UNITED

Henning Hoesch’s son, Sylvain, born in 1970, is also enthusiastically active at the domaine. After studying oenology at Marseille, he gained experience on well-known vineyards in California and Australia. Today, he is managing the domaine within the philosophy of his father and with a dedication to maintaining the high quality of Richeaume’s wine. Sylvain and his father not only share the passion for ecological growth of wine but they are also equally stubborn.
Employees with different professional backgrounds and various nationalities are working on the domaine: such as Provencal locals, Polish land workers and students from German special colleges for wine growers. In this way, experienced agricultural workers who have been in wine growing on the domaine for decades, may exchange their skills with the latest scientific results from the students working in the cellar.

ACHITECTURE SERVING WINE PRODUCTION

In 1972, when Henning Hoesch bought Domaine Richeaume, it came with some wonderful « bones ». A stunning setting against the foothills of Mont Sainte Victoire, and buildings with their original, genuine, Provencal character.  The restoration revealed Roman remains.
The Hoesch family capitalised on these attributes: the Provencal buildings were sympathecitcally transformed in to family accommodation. For the construction of the cellar Henning Hoesch made use of the skills of Jean Tchepitchian, in conjunction with the famous Italian architect Carlo Scarpa from Venice.

ACHITECTURE SERVING WINE PRODUCTION

Odette Ducarre, former Professor at the College of Fine Arts, Aix en Provence, designed the roof of the cellar and the working quarters.  The cellar was built in to the terraces in the foothills of Mont Sainte Victoire and designed to use gravity for moving between the various production stages: from the receiving of the freshly picked grapes through to final bottling.
Both the aesthetics and the functionality of all the buildings blend perfectly with the vineyards to create an unmistakable landscape with unique characteristics.