Biodynamics is a subject that holds the power to conjure up the most heated and fervent debates. But, what is it really? Some define it as a holistic way of farming in which each aspect of the environment and all living organisms are cohesively intertwined. To others it is a ritualistic practice that holds little scientific backing. But to Didier Barral of Domaine Leon Barral, biodynamics is not only a means of nurturing the land in which he loves but also it is the essential foundation allowing him to fabricate his remarkable wines from.
Barral’s family estate is situated in the lesser-known appellation of Faugeres, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It is here that Barral cultivates 62 acres of vineyards grown on mineral rich schist soils, distinctive to Faugeres. These soils force the vine’s roots to dig deep to scavenge for water and nutrients. This process greatly stresses the vines leading to low yields of richly concentrated fruit. Barral helps to promote a synergistic and healthy environment in all that he does from allowing large populations of earthworms to inundate the soil that rouse its health and structure, to encouraging flocks of animals to roam freely throughout his vineyard eating grass and excreting natural fertilizers along the way. The land is seen as one living organism all interlaced and working together. He is adamant about practicing natural winemaking techniques as well by stressing long maceration times, using miniscule amounts of sulfur, and bottling his wines unfiltered and unfined. His wines all undergo fermentation by native yeast found in the field as well as the cellar and can spend between 18 and 24 months in either barrel or cement tanks.
The old world techniques Barral employs in both the vineyard and the winery are in turn rendering luxurious wines which are true expressions of the terroir of his land. His goal has always been “to make something irresistible: a bottle of wine that no one would willingly leave unfinished” (Patrick Moon, Virgile’s Vineyard). For years, Barral has been doing just that, producing wines that captivate the hearts of many and keep them thirsting for more.
His 2007 Jadis, predominately comprised of Carignan and Syrah with a bit of Grenache thrown into the mix is a perfect example of his bewitching wines. The nose is dominated with bright red fruit intertwined flawlessly with notes of spice box and liquorice. Layers of freshly tilled earth, leather and fresh herbs shine amidst the fruit. Its smooth tannins and ample acidity lend themselves to the weight and power that cannot be overlooked. This wine is undoubtedly rich and complex that will engage any palate.
There is a reason the popular phrase has been coined; “in vino veritas”, in wine there is truth. The next time the subject of whether or not biodynamic practices leads to better fruit and in turn wines, the true testament lies in the bottle. Come in and try this wine, you be the judge.
Photos from Domaine Leon Barral website