Organic Champagne ?
In a world where everything is increasingly normalised and categorized, our approach to viticulture fits into none of the recognised « boxes » in France. We are, in a sense, a viticultural UVO (Unidentified Vinous Object).
Our way of describing this at Serge Mathieu is to say that our vitcultural approach is « ecolo-pragmatic », meaning that we avoid, as far as possible, the use of any chemical products. Our choice is governed essentially by the weather conditions in Champagne. It is very hard to farm here in a totally « organic » way, given the sun/rain combinations that are part of our climatic constraints. If we were producing wine in southern France, we would operate otherwise.
Therefore we will resort to the use of chemical sprays, but only in extreme situations, and only after we have done our utmost to avoid this by other practices. This is rather akin to a human being using natural medecine unless he has a serious illness requiring a more radical approach.
Correspondingly, Serge Mathieu does not require or request any form of organic certification. Yet we use neither chemical weedkillers nor chemical pesticides. If absolutely necessary, we will use a natural pesticide. Neither do we use chemical fungicides, but we are experimenting natural alternatives.
Various forms of mildew are quite prevalent in Champagne. We use sulphur, which is a natural product, and four to five treatments per year with a synthetic chemical product. In addition we use a maximum of 4 kg per hectare of copper per year, since copper has a toxic affect on the soil in higher quantities.
We are currently experimenting with replanting hedgerows around our vineyard plots. In this we look for plant types that will offer maximum cover to birds and insects which are natural predators of vine pests.
We also eschew certain practices that are unsuited to our approach to nature, such as countering spring frosts by sprinkling water or by heating the air around the vines with electric or fuel-powered heaters. For the same reason we do not burn weeds with blow-torches, since this also destroys microbes in the soil and consumes lots of fossile energy.