A Plea From Chablis: Olivier de Moor Speaks Out
On May 24th, the Chablis vigneron published an open letter to colleagues about the need for collective action to save viticulture. With his permission, here's an English translation.
Since their first vintage in 1995, and their conversion to organic agriculture a decade later, Courgis’ Alice and Olivier de Moor have earned a reputation as some of the most respected and thoughtful vignerons of their generation - especially within the conservative milieu of Olivier’s native Chablis. Trained oenologists, the de Moors were the first in Chablis to embrace the aesthetic of minimal sulfite addition and non-filtration espoused, since 1998, by their friends at Troyes natural wine retailer Aux Crieurs de Vin.
The de Moors are known as much for their humility and discretion as for their sublime, long-lived chardonnays and aligotés. Which is why it seemed a significant event when, early last week, Olivier de Moor shared an open letter to vigneron colleagues, calling for collective action to save viticulture in the face of climate disruption.
The de Moors kindly gave me permission to share the letter with readers of NOT DRINKING POISON. What follows is my translation.
For subscribers, I also conducted a NEW INTERVIEW WITH OLIVIER DE MOOR, in which he explains his intent and his strategy with the letter, which, as you’ll see, is couched in a diplomatic tone common among vignerons who wish, above all, to avoid alienating their peers.
AN OPEN LETTER FROM OLIVIER DE MOOR
Share this, please. I will try to be as short and concise as necessary. To ask for your attention and your help. The anticipated climate disruptions are our lives now. And this is simultaneous with mass species extinction. Because it is related. And of course, you, like me, seem quite helpless in face of the perils that have been announced and given the means available for us to respond and adapt to them. As far as just the vine is concerned, projecting from our current work habits, an average reduction in yields of at least 35% is anticipated within the next ten years. I know very well I am the beneficiary of the successive work of several generations, which has allowed the construction of this wine region and the recognition of its wines.
This is the result of collective work, and of individuals who have insisted upon high standards or new ideas and projects. From this, we benefit. Faced with the changes that have been announced, two responses are possible. Either an individual response, or a collective response. Individually, we act so our vines are fed as well as possible, so they produce enough grapes, and ones faithful to our region. This work is done by the intermediary of soil bacteria. To accomplish this nonetheless calls for certain tools, in terms of mechanization and additives. This has its advantages, its disadvantages, and its limitations, which approach ever closer. Above all, these latter only lead us to maintain and accentuate what now affects us. We maintain, even amplify, the causes of our problems.
The other solution, more ambitious because it is collective, is linked to what scientists have been explaining to us for only a few decades. That a plant is not merely a plant, but a symbiosis, and that it feeds itself that way, that it feeds through everything surrounding it, in particular mycorrhizae. However, to feed our plants again through this natural and original process that we have broken, we need a vast and ambitious collective project. To believe in life, to respect all possible plants, all the hedges that are forming, all the isolated trees, all the woodland zones.
It is only through this most complete respect for living things that we will allow more ecological diversity, more coolness, more temperature regulation and thermal inertia, and a natural distribution of water from water sources to the organic matter in our soils. This project to which I aspire, and which seems to me the only real answer, revolves around what are called ecological corridors. Which is to say, corridors where we let life take root to reconnect to its origins, to link it, and manage to redistribute it to the interior of our cultivated parcels. If we don't do this, I am greatly afraid that our crop cultivation, which we artificially destine to an isolation from living things in order to produce only what we want, will come to an end. Of course, I am at your disposal. And I can, if you seek more details, give them. And put you in touch with experts who’ll know how to advise us. However, in the end, it is extremely simple. Let life come back anywhere it can.
Olivier de Moor
Alice and Olivier de Moor
4 Rue Jacques Ferrand
My May 31st interview with Olivier de Moor, in which he explains the intent behind his letter.
Olivier de Moor’s letter as it appeared on May 24th in Le Point.
Olivier de Moor’s letter as it appeared on May 24th at the blog of Jacques Berthomeau, who also helpfully includes links to de Moor’s inspirations, including agroforestry specialist Alain Canet and plant biologist Marc André Selosse.
My first visit to Alice and Olivier de Moor, back in 2013.
My interview with Burgundy no-till organics pioneer Jean-Jacques Morel.