Speaking exclusively to Decanter, Jacky Lorenzetti, owner of the 52ha estate since 2009, spoke of his conviction to sustainable viticulture and a desire to produce the best wine possible in harmony with nature.
Despite organic practices beginning at the estate 10 years ago in 2012, official conversion began in 2019. ‘When we arrived, we had a lot of work to do to bring soil back to life’, says the real estate investor and owner of Bordeaux estates Château Lafon-Rochet and Château Lilian Ladouys in St-Estèphe as well as co-owner of Château d’Issan in Margaux and Paris rugby team Racing 92. The team began with the ‘most difficult and disease-prone terroirs’ and worked ‘step by step from there’.
‘It was a conviction from the beginning, and made sense for us’ Lorenzetti said.
Château Pédesclaux a timeline
2009: Acquired by the Lorenzetti family, Jacky and Françoise and their daughter Manon. Primary objective to decompact the soils and stimulate life
2010: A return to tillage while setting up competitive grassing to control excessive vigour and create a deep root network as well as stopping mineral fertilisation
2011: An in-depth study created of 100 soil pits across the vineyard identifying 19 different types of soil leading to a restructuring programme to best match grape variety to terroir.
2012: First organic trials begin on a 2ha parcel of vines, one of the most difficult and complex in terms of disease pressure.
2014: New gravity cellar installed
2015: Organic trials doubled in plots which systematically go into the grand vin. Biodynamic trials also begin using the know-how of Antoine Leptit de La Bigne. Rigorous comparisons are undertaken in the winery between normal, organic and biodynamic viticulture,
2016: 7.5ha organic
2017: 12ha organic
2018: 24ha organic. Organically farmed vines showing more resistance to disease and global warming effects
2019: Official organic conversion begins
2020-2021: Participated in the IACUSA (Impacts and accumulation of copper in agricultural soils) conducted by the firm Novasol Experts alongside French wine growers concerned about the environmental impact of their practices such as Romanee-Conti, Château Latour and Palmer. Objective to measure the ecotoxicological impact of copper on the biological quality of wine-growing soils using a scientific approach.
2022: Officially certified organic and gravity-fed. New packaging to be revealed as of this vintage.
A new, modern, gravity-fed winery was established in 2014 with 58 vats for specific parcel micro-vinfications, ranging in volume and size with 12 options between 60 and 140hl), but Lorenzetti insists terroir contributes ‘80% to the quality of the wine. A great chai helps the work of humans to gain precision but the vineyard is number one’.
Lorenzetti insists the objective is ‘not necessarily to make an organic wine but to make the best wine possible’, admitting that it hasn’t been easy. The average production cost has risen 15% while the average yield loss per vintage over the past 10 years has been -10% on average.
‘It has an impact of course, but we accept the difficulties because we’re convinced this is the right path to take.’
Today, 50% of the vineyard is conducted organically and 50% biodynamically which is still being assessed for its impact on the vineyard and the wine. ‘Organics gives us the best warranty for the environment, but we’re trialling one step further’.
An agroecology programme is also in place with trees and hedges planted to encourage and develop biodiversity and ‘balance the vineyard’. Massal selection is also used to keep the most resistant varieties and characters of successful old-vine plantings. ‘We find when the vineyard is balanced you need to use even less organic products’.
When asked if the same philosophy and endeavours extend to the other properties in the portfolio, Lorenzetti said; ‘We can’t have a belief in one vineyard and not the others,’ insisting that it’s a ‘global vision that is going step-by-step’.
Trials have begun at Château d’Issan of which Lorenzetti owns a 50% stake alongside the Cruse family headed by Emmanuel Cruse, also director of Vignobles Cruse-Lorenzetti, in addition to Pédesclaux and Lilian Ladouys (60ha) which is currently in organic conversion due for certification in 2024.
The group’s newest acquisition, Lafon-Rochet (45ha), was already in organic conversion when it was purchased last year (2021). Working closely with Cruse, Christophe Congé has been brought on board as managing director, moving from his role as oenologist and wine operations manager across Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Duhart Milon for over 22 years.
There is now a collective between the four estates to share knowledge and best-practices as well as a growing exchange of initiatives across Pauillac to see which viticultural methods are working the most successfully and the quickest and most efficient activities going forward.
Sustainability is also key with an energy audit completed at each estate measuring energy and water usage. Solar panels have been listed as a potential source of future power generation.
To celebrate the certification there will be a label redesign for Château Pédesclaux when it comes to bottling the 2022 vintage with the positioning of ‘organic’ a discussion among the team.
‘Customers naturally look to the back of the label for that kind of information, but we may put it on the front, which could be a first for Bordeaux’.
Looking ahead, such is the commitment to the environment, Lorenzetti said; ‘We’re ready to sacrifice a harvest not to use any chemical products. It’s also our conscience,’ adding ‘we will never go back’.