Once you meet Thierry Valette, you know it's time to listen with 200% of attention, absorb as much knowledge as possible and remember all the details of this magical winery where wine is a product of sensitivity and imagination. Now I know that Clos Puy Arnaud is a winery that pops-ups automatically in minds of biodynamic wine experts when it comes to Bordeaux, but that day I was just intuitively feeling how special is the place which I was lucky to get an appointment to.
Let's talk about the owner and the place
Thierry Valette is a 4th generation winemaker (his family-owned Chateau Pavie and Troplong-Mondot in Saint-Emilion), although, in the beginning, he chose not to make wine and instead have a life of a jazz-dancer and musician. This past of him is the reason why elegance and finesse are the words that can apply to all Clos Puy Arnaud wines regardless of vintage and cuvée. Along with his signature style, he wanted to develop a real production philosophy where agriculture respects the biotope.
As a result, he settled down in Clos Puy Arnaud and up till now the domain has been certified organic for 16 years and biodynamic for 11 years. Biodynamic farming was a logical path for Thierry as it's a holistic approach that takes into account the whole, not the details. His daily mission is to capture the energy of the place to restore it in tastes and aromas of the wine.
Talking about the place - Castillon is the green crown of Bordeaux, where 25% of the estates are either farmed organically or biodynamically. The reason behind this impressive statistic is that in the '90s a very talented winemaking elite urged to Castillon - land prices were very affordable and it became a laboratory of creativity where winegrowers express themselves in organic and biodynamic farming. Generally speaking, what if not a hilly countryside with woods and meadows full of biodiversity can host vignerons that dare to challenge the greatest Pomerol and Saint-Émilion names?
Terroir - a sense of place...
Of course, when we think of terroir the first thing that comes to our mind is the soil. But we all know very well that it would be too easy to describe what a 'sense of place' is only point out the soil.
What's really important and why I often feel the 'sense of place' specifically in biodynamic and organic wines is because terroir is a combination of soil, organic matter, wind (how aerated the plot is), sun exposure and the vigneron. And while biodynamic cultivation methods can't help on sun exposure or wind, they definitely matter when it comes to organic matter :)
Organic matter is a soil component that consists of remains of plants and animals at various stages of decomposition, cells and tissues of soil microbes, and substances that soil microbes synthesize. None of these will be present in a soil where herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides are systematically applied.