The dirty secret about Champagne is that the water of that region is the most polluted in France – and possibly the world. Why? Because of all of the pesticides used in growing the grapes to be made into wine.
I learned this fact last summer from Champagne resident, journalist, and wine educator Caroline Henry when I went to get a glass of water from the tap while visiting her.
In the introduction to her book, Terroir Champagne: the Luxury of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Cuvees, Caroline explains what “terroir” means — beyond simply the place of origin– and why she focuses on how the people who make the wine interpret the expression of the soil. To truly express the soil, Caroline argues that the winemaker needs to facilitate bringing the minerals in the soil to the plant which requires that water “be able to freely move in the soil.”
“With all the herbicides generally used in Champagne,” says Caroline, “the soil is often hard and impermeable.” During a heavy downpour, she says, you can see the water run off the land and erode the soil
According to Caroline, in Champagne
- 80% of vineyard surfaces has herbicides like Glyphosate or pre-emergent herbicides
- 20% of vineyard surfaces has no herbicides used; this includes vineyard borders and roads where it is forbidden to use them.
- 2/3 of growers use blanket sprays, with 90% use under rows.
Since the living elements in the soil have been destroyed in order to control any possible threats to the vines and the valuable grapes that grow on them, Caroline reports that the Champenois must heavily rely on fertilizers to boost the vines as well as pesticides and anti-botritys products, to address the problems of mildew, odium and rot.
The good news is the organic sector is growing. One of the reasons, Caroline suggests, is that “People have lost confidence in conventional agriculture and viticulture and are looking for more sustainable alternatives.” The focus on sustainable growing is important: “Louis Roederer…is in the process of organic certification and has been a pioneer on alternative viticulture for at least a decade,” says Caroline. If you want to know whether a wine you are drinking is certified biodynamic, you can check the label or on the Demeter or Biodyvin websites to see if it is one of the 28 certified producers. The appendix of Caroline’s book also lists them.
Today Caroline Henry is coming to visit ME and she’s going to be sharing some of her knowledge about Champagne and biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines tonight in Ventura! You may remember my interview with her from last summer and which you can read here and some of which I have used in this post
Caroline will be sharing info from and signing her book at the The Cave inside Ventura Wine Company tonight August 20, 2019 from 6-8pm.
Caroline arrived in the US on July 10, and after traveling 9000 miles around the US talking about Champagne, she flies out tomorrow August 21, making this stop in Ventura the grande finale of her summer long book tour around the United States promoting her book, Terroir Champagne.
Tonight she will be discussing a topic she is very passionate about, Champagne, and with a focus on the somewhat controversial topic of organic and biodynamic farming in the Champagne region, which she is also very passionate about.
In fact, Caroline is a very passionate person! And she’s a lot of fun too!
Enjoy a glass of champagne while discussing champagne, farming, travel, and more with Caroline. Cost is $12 per person, and a $6 credit will be applied to your retail purchase of the discussed grower champagnes. Please note, these champagnes will be available as a pre-sale only.
These grower-producers are small production, super special, and not easy to find — especially in Ventura! But Cave owner Nicole Valdivia LOVES bubbles, and she is looking forward to discovering a few gems to add to the Cave’s inventory.
To reserve your seat please call (805) 642-9449, or email Nicole: email@example.com. See you tonight!!
And if you can’t come tonight, you can still order Caroline’s book Terroir Champagne: the Luxury of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Cuvees. If you contact her NOW, she might even be able to mail it to you tomorrow before she leaves for France! Go to Terroirchampagne.com, where she will confirm your order and ask if you want it dedicated; all 3000 books are signed and numbered and are printed on recycled paper.
You can find Caroline on the web at:
- @carohenry (twitter)
- @missinwine/@terroirchampagne (instagram)
Gwendolyn: Thanks for alerting me to Ms. Henry’s book. I have ordered it and am anxious to read it. One concern: if Roundup (and other chemicals) is in the water, how does an organic farmer who irrigates guard against its incursion? Seems that dry farming is the only solution. I am interested to read how Caroline addresses this issue.