What drives you?
Xavier: An unwavering pursuit of quality, commitment to the environment and equal respect for tradition and innovation in everything we do.
What are your aims for Chêne Bleu?
Xavier: It’s very straightforward: our objective is to create wines of exceptional quality - natural, refined and complex. We have the great fortune to be in a privileged site, with a long history. We want to respect and express the site’s natural attributes, whilst bringing the best ideas and practices available anywhere.
How do you put this into practice?
Nicole: By applying an integrative approach that draws together the best ideas and resources from anyone who can bring wisdom to our vision, our project and our passion. Hence our motto: Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis.
Did either of you have any wine expertise?
Nicole: Only as consumers! Once we “took our oath” to turn the vineyard around, we extended our wine appreciation through courses and frequent tastings. Luckily we both love to study, because in this field, the need for knowledge knows no end! We worked closely with leading viticulturists who advised us. We were also pleased as punch when Jean-Louis and Bénédicte - Xavier’s brother-in-law and sister - armed with serious winemaking study, got involved.
THE PURSUIT OF PURITY
Why this focus on the best?
Nicole: Aut Caesar aut Nihil… Caesar or Nothing, as the saying goes. There’s so much potential in the terroir that we could not imagine taking any half measures. Chêne Bleu deserves extreme commitment, focus and dedication. We were not keen to take on a project like this and not deliver on it. Our ‘no shortcuts’ policy is inextricably intertwined with a personal belief in self-improvement. To get the best results we take the view that we need to be determined, constantly questioning, forward-thinking and open-minded and we draw inspiration from respected practitioners around the world.
What’s the source of your commitment to the environment?
Xavier: First and foremost, my deep love and respect for nature.
How do you apply that to the Domaine?
Xavier: I have always felt passionate about working in a sustainable, non-invasive way, and never resting on our laurels. I felt a great responsibility to restore and protect this privileged ecosystem, which includes the people involved, this has helped the vines to thrive! It is our duty to make sure that the Domaine is managed well, to share it and to pass it on in good health to future generations.
In every aspect of our work, our goal is to ensure that the vineyard, the winery and the people involved remain in a healthy, sustainable equilibrium with each other. This is why we introduced exacting organic and biodynamic principles to the way we work.
Biodynamism is costly in labor and time. Why go to all that trouble?
Xavier: Our research has confirmed the importance of these practices in the management of a healthy vineyard. We are constantly moving towards less interventionist practices, more in tune with the rhythms of nature. Bénédicte avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers, favoring natural ones such as our own compost on the vines and in the vegetable garden. We welcome a flock of sheep over winter in the vineyards to provide weed-control as well as natural fertilizer. It is remarkable to see the variety of insects, birds and animals that have returned since we eliminated chemicals.
Is water a problem?
Xavier: We have the great fortune to have several natural springs on the property that collect water from the St Amand. One of them was attributed miraculous properties for curing the blind in the Middle Ages. Given that water – and the lack of it – is such a major global concern, we feel strongly that we should be leaders in good practices in water management, and it informs all our thinking. I have planted an extensive stretch of bamboo to manage waste water naturally.
What about your carbon footprint?
Xavier: We continue to work to reduce and offset our carbon footprint, to grow our commitment to recycling and to improve our understanding of the functioning of the spectacular natural environment that surrounds us.
What are the future possibilities?
Xavier: There are plenty. For instance, we’re also developing a natural alternative to pesticides by using propolis from my bees! It’s only a start; sustainability is a long journey.
Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis ‘Not mine, not yours, but ours.’ We chose this motto as it expresses the interactive philosophy at the heart of our work. As with a great bottle of wine, the pleasure is magnified by sharing. We take great pleasure in sharing Chêne Bleu and La Verrière with those who appreciate them.
Also, while the Domaine and the terroir have a clear identity and we have our own strongly held beliefs, we have assimilated our views with those of so many gifted people that La Verrière is no longer just our project. Today it embraces a number of different ways of looking at the world and we hope to continue to engage with new ideas and new people.