An innovative vineyard for premium sparkling wines

February 2021

Since 1980, our wine house has been producing premium sparkling wines and breaking all the rules with regard to its blends. Ensuring a mastery of the grapes, the quality and the diversity of the crop are essential to achieve the house’s sought-after style, comprising wines with freshness and finesse.

Faced with the difficulty of finding base wines that meet its requirements and to maintain better control over the quality of its grapes, our wine house decided to move its supply chain as close as possible to the winery by creating its very own vineyard.

Indeed, the 2016 relaxation of the European Union’s planting rules has now made it possible for French vineyards to be planted outside protected appellation zones. A more northerly region would be wellsuited to meet these criteria, and the natural choice was the Saône valley between the Jura and Burgundy, which until now, has been perhaps better known for its cereal farming than for its vines.

And so this ambitious and innovative project came to life, driven by a desire to ensure a secure supply of French grapes for the brand. The project was supported by a range of agricultural stakeholders brought together under the banner of the Vignobles Innovants du Val de Saône (VIVAS), comprising a dozen or so “agri-winegrowers”, Dijon Céréales, the Bourgogne du Sud cooperative, and our wine house Charles de Fère. In 2018, 65 hectares were planted on the fertile soil of the Saône plain.

This innovative environmentally responsible vineyard was designed as a “wine orchard” for the production of high-quality grapes. Such an innovative approach was only possible because the constraints linked to AOC regulations do not apply here, allowing for the testing of new techniques. These sandy clay-silt plots were planted with the white grape varietals of Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Chardonnay.

This project also includes an experimental plot planted with 11 different grape varieties, both white and red, which are typically grown in other regions of France, in order to determine whether or not they will flourish on this terroir. Vine management has been designed to optimize the expression of the different varietals while minimizing production costs. There is no trellising, the rows are grassed, and fertilizer is drip-fed to ensure better water and fertilization management and boost strong growth. The young vines are now three years old and this winter were hand-trained into a cordon. The plants are bent at right angles, all pointing in the same direction and at the same height, with the canes winding around the wires to facilitate mechanized maintenance and pruning in particular. The canes were attached to the wires with rubber ties so as not to injure the young plants.

By creating a vineyard close by the winery that is specifically designed for sparkling wines, whilst being respectful of both people and the environment, our house continues its quest for excellence in the art of blending premium French sparkling wines.