South-African born Sean and Caro Feely lived in Ireland for about 9 years before following their fancy of having a wine farm in France. In 2010, that dream eventually become a reality. You can read about their hardships and triumphs in Caro’s three books: “Grape Expectations”; “Saving Our Skins” and “Glass Half Full”.
Having found two of her three books in our local Cape Town bookstore (and having read them with relish) I was determined to visit their vineyards while in France.
Their Celtic symbol represents the Feelys’ Irish roots and also biodynamic farming; where planting, pruning and harvesting is done according to the phases of the moon and all preparations are stirred in a circular motion.
No pesticides nor inorganic fertilisers are allowed in biodynamic farming which is also known as “organic plus”.
Insects are considered fellow labourers in the fields. We know that bees and butterflies pollinate the blossoms which produce the fruit…
but in these vineyards, all insects are considered to be important – those that feed on pests,
those that churn the earth,
and those that possibly provide all three services.
Another aspect of biodynamic farming is that the farm is seen as a wholistic, symbiotic organism. Stinging nettles found growing wild are used in some of the preparations to control pests; the chickens provide organic fertiliser a.k.a manure. They use what is found naturally around them.
I love the harmonious interactions between man and the environment.
At this stage of their development, it’s impossible to tell from looking a the colour of the grapes, whether they are red or white.
The reddish tint on the ends of the leaves allude to the clue: this vine produces red grapes.
Two reds; namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and two whites; Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are grown on this estate.
Orchids growing alongside the vines tell the “vigneron” (winemaker or vintner) that this is going to be a good season.
The fatter the stem, the older the vine. This is one of the original ones planted in 1940!
These Semillon vines are only 10 years old.
The farm consists of 13 acres of beautifully kept and conscientiously maintained vine-babies. We could see that they are passionate about what they do!
Tour done. It was time for the tasting. Even our teens were allowed “a wee drab”.
We held a white board behind these two whites so that we could see the difference in colour. The one on the right is a Sauvignon Blanc called “Sincérité” and to the right, “Générosité”; a Sémillon/Sauvignon blend.
Biodynamic farming relies on the phases of the moon. “Leaf days” are for watering; “root days” for pruning; “fruit days” for harvesting and “flower days” when the vines are left to themselves.
Apparently the type of day (and hour) also effects the “goût” (taste) of the wine. We were there on a “root day” which meant that the wine would taste more earthy.
This “terroir” (specific soil) is made up of predominantly limestone with some flint and a little bit of clay. We rubbed the flint stones together…
and then smelled them to sense the smokey notes. We could taste the smokiness in “Générosité”.
All in all we tasted five: three whites, three reds and a neighbour’s dessert wine.
The wines were paired with a cheeseboard and homemade “pain au noix” (walnut bread) which was wonderful!
Can you believe that the blue cheese went so well with the dessert wine?! The sweetness and saltiness complemented each other so well … “alhors” so; they do say “les contraires s’attirent” (opposites attract) and form a sublime symphony in the mouth.
“Nous avons passer un bon moment ici”. (We had a lovely time here) and I wish them “bon chance” for their future success.