Jean-Louis Denois

Jean-Louis Denois has 11 hectares of Chardonnay and 8.5 hectares of Pinot Noir in the Roquetaillade, one of the highest village sites in the Languedoc. This spot is a meeting point of positive influences: favourable climate due to altitude and late-ripening clay soils (what's negative in northern borderline zones for growing vines, becomes a plus in the south for acclimatising early-ripening varieties and thus delaying ripening) coupled with skilled determined people.

The entire estate is now farmed organically, meaning:

  • No weedkiller, no synthetic chemicals and no insecticide
  • Deep tilling (5 or 6 times a year)
  • Composting with local farm manure
  • Careful high trellising for better photosynthesis i.e better sugar build-up in the grapes
  • Hand-picking, sorted on the vine and again in the winery for reds

Return to natural compost and biodynamics

With this environmentally friendly vision and desire to control yields, he's moving the estate towards biodynamic farming, started in 2012, but as always with Jean-Louis, it's all or nothing; not satisfied with fertilizers used by his "biodynamic" colleagues, he made biodynamic compost from 1000 tonnes of cow and sheep dung collected from the countryside. 

He does not shy from using modern technology in the cellar, like temperature control, but he only uses it if it makes sense and helps enhance terroir and wine style. Why machine harvest if you lose 10% of volume and can't do any sorting? Why de-alcoholise if you can simply pick earlier? Why filter wines early on if you can wait for them to settle out naturally during the cold winter? In his own words, "The least possible intervention in the winery is the best way to enhance the complex individual characters of each variety and site; that doesn't mean 'laissez-faire or leave nature to it', but being prepared and anticipating every step in the best conditions from the vine onwards."