Part of the magic of French terroir is the fact that it finds a balance between soil and grape variety, in other words a soil that will provide the relevant grape variety with the best possible nutrition. Our particular situation allows us to be at the northern limit of these grape varieties’ area of expression. Merlot, for example, is not planted in the Loire as it may not ripen fully there. The benefit of our excellent geographical location enables us to make beautifully dense wines with refined tannins.
However, increasingly warm seasonal temperatures are having an impact. At Mazeyres we have what are known as light soils, with a structure made up of sand or fine gravel rather than clay, which is only found here in very small quantities. Weather has a significant impact on these soils, as they contain a lot of air and relatively little water due to the lack of clay. This sensitivity to temperature variation is reflected in significant, rapid rises in soil temperatures.
We often talk about leaf temperature in winegrowing, forgetting that the temperature of the roots is also key. This in particular explains why Cabernet Sauvignon does better in the Médoc than here, which is the reason we chose not to plant this otherwise wonderful grape variety at Mazeyres. As warm vintages have become a regular feature in recent years, we have Merlot that begins very velvety and pleasingly well-rounded and generous but is in danger of collapsing and softening if the harvest is left too late. This results in a heaviness that is unsurprisingly not conducive to ageing and the verticality that biodynamics can achieve in these measured conditions.
To take this climate change into account before it becomes disadvantageous, we have increased our level of Cabernet Franc. Even when very ripe, this grape variety remains very tightly-knit, providing beautiful structure in tasting that serves as a backbone. This keeps the whole together. This complementarity is enriched by adding Petit Verdot, a traditional Médoc variety that has recently been added to the permitted list in Pomerol and benefits from naturally high acidity levels. In small amounts, it adds a touch of freshness and a rising finish that keeps the wine vibrant. However, Petit Verdot is very strongly aromatic and needs to be used frugally so that its role remains subtle.