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Good news for April

Some reasons to be cheerful – our monthly report on some recent positive developments in wine sustainability.

April Good News

Going prehistoric in Portugal 

Our good news from Portugal often revolves around forward-thinking winemakers and regenerative cork forests, but this month, it’s all about prehistoric cows. A specially bred version of the long-extinct auroch has been released as part of a rewilding project aiming to create a wildlife corridor along the Côa River, improving habitat connectivity between the Douro River in the north and the Malcata mountains in the south of the country. The aurochs are an ancestor of the modern cow, and can help support biodiversity; these large grazers are very good at improving the distribution of plant species, recycling the nutrients, and enabling them to be passed to other species in the ecosystem. 

Sustainable relationships with Society producers 

We wrote earlier this year about the importance of truly sustainable relationships with suppliers, and how paying our producers a fair price for their wine enables them to operate in a sustainable way for their workers and their business. We saw an example of this recently – our longstanding Bordeaux producer Château de la Grave found themselves in a very precarious position after the domestic market collapsed. ‘When the pandemic hit in 2020’ writes buyer Tim Sykes, ‘their market in France, which historically took over half the château’s production, collapsed and their business has never recovered. Bordeaux is facing a crisis of massive proportions due to falling domestic demand for red wines and a drop in the bulk wine market to levels that are effectively below the cost of production.’ 

As our relationship with them is so strong and well-established, buying from them since the 1980s, Tim agreed to take the equivalent of three years’ worth of stock of the 2020 vintage of the ‘Caractère' Côtes de Bourg to help their current situation. He then put out an offer last week and, thanks to the support of our members, the entire stocks of the 2020 sold out.

Lou, Valérie and Philippe Bassereau, the family behind Château de la GraveIntroducing two characterful wines from one of the true characters and greats of the English wine scene, that highlight the history and future of English fizz.
Lou, Valérie and Philippe Bassereau, the family behind Château de la GraveIntroducing two characterful wines from one of the true characters and greats of the English wine scene, that highlight the history and future of English fizz.

‘This means a huge amount to them’ says Tim. ‘We want them to be able to survive, they’re just the kind of producer we should be supporting. It’s a family-run producer making great strides towards sustainability, recently certified organic and now working on light-weighting their bottles. And, of course, they make lovely wines – we’ve bought almost every vintage since we started working with them.’

A special personal message

We have a special personal message for members straight from Lou Bassereau, who runs Château de la Grave with his parents Valérie and Philippe. 

‘When I decided to join my parents on the family estate in 2018, we were already committed to processes that were particularly respectful of the environment and nature. But I wanted to go further, and assert my personal convictions. The decision to convert the entire property of 40 hectares of vines to organic and biodynamic agriculture took two years of reflection and implementation. This is not straightforward, especially in our region of Bordeaux where the growing conditions are among the most difficult to manage for organic winegrowers. In 2020 we formally started the three years of conversion –  a complex and tricky three years but three years which ultimately passed very quickly... I am happy and proud today to have made my dream come true.’ 

‘New projects are in progress with the creation of pre-orchards within the vineyard. These are part of an agroecological and agroforestry approach. An ancient production system combining open-air orchards and breeding, it represents a real heritage to be protected and enhanced in our countryside. In addition to its remarkable landscape footprint and its longevity, it plays an important role in the ecological balance of certain environments, in particular by hosting a significant number of protected species, both in fauna and flora. Also organically farmed, these plots will combine breeding (sheep and horses) and fruit production. Today, the challenge is just beginning for me!’ 

‘I would like to thank the Wine Society and all its members who have been loyal and trusted us for over 30 years. Every year, as best as possible, given the climate and our terroir, I want to produce wines of impeccable quality, wines of pleasure, popular wines that we like to share, wines in our image.’

Lou Bassereau, Château de la Grave 

Missed the offer? We’re expecting more stock later in the year, but in the meantime you can still buy the 2019 vintage of the ‘Caractère'. 

Catena lead the way in Argentina 

Dr Laura Catena from Bodega Catena (who make The Society’s Exhibition Mendoza Malbec) is a real champion of sustainability, particularly in her home country of Argentina. She recently told Forbes magazine about how their winery is not only making big changes to become more sustainable, but in fact showing the way for other producers in their country. They are leading by example with bottle weights, reducing theirs by 40% across their portfolio since 2010, and have been instrumental in developing other sustainability protocol. The Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability Code was an initiative started by Catena in 2008, and now 215 wineries are certified with this internationally recognised code.

Discover our selection of producers making a difference.

Read more articles on sustainability.

Amy Matthews

Acting Senior Editor

Amy Matthews

Amy is currently Acting Senior Editor at The Wine Society, including editing the Sustainability Hub. She has worked in wine for nearly twenty years for importers, wine bar groups and national retailers, as well as freelance drinks writing and content consultancy.

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