When I wrote my second book “It’s Not About the Dirt”, I knew from the start that the title would be a little controversial. That’s part of the charm of writing a book? If you write what everyone has written and don’t express a new philosophy, then it probably isn’t worth the effort?
In the book, I challenge the concept that just because you own a vineyard block – the ‘dirt’ – in a specific location with a pre-ordained appellation that it would be good by virtue of its position on a map rather than through sustained hard work and viticultural diligence. And that the conventional French definition of ‘terroir’ being geology, geography and micro-climate had been extrapolated to imply that on those vineyard blocks outside of famous defined wine appellations, would find it practically impossible to grow great fruit or produce good wine. During our relatively short experience Paradise Rescued, in common with many other vineyards, has successfully disproved (or expanded on) the traditional terroir three dimensional theory. Hence the book and it’s title!
Whilst indeed there are indeed many mythical vineyards and wines produced in certain specific areas of Bordeaux on some very good terroirs, it should not be assumed that location alone determines the quality of a wine. Our work has quickly shown that a fourth quality – the human effort and experience – is an equally important quality in developing a high-quality producing vineyard. Even if you own a particular block for four generations, unless you look after it, nurture and develop its health, good fruit / wine is not a given.
In other words, if you don’t continue to work and nourish your vineyard soil in an appropriate way, adding to the human effort and experience contained therein, that land will lose the advantages of its location.
At Paradise Rescued, we quickly learned that good wine came from great fruit which required healthy vines growing in very healthy soil. In short, it all starts in the vineyard. It starts with the soil.
During my last visit in Cardan, I started to notice some changes in our soil. And let’s be honest, staring at soil and reaching meaningful conclusions is a qualitative art at very best. But some of our best clues come from benchmarking against our neighbours and trying to think through why and how the differences arise. And those differences are real and very apparent when regularly surveyed. But this spring, even I can see a further step change – positive I should add – in our own soil health and structure.
We have never shirked from the facts that our we did not exactly begin with healthy vineyards – particularly the Cabernet Franc Hourcat Sud block which when I look back at the photos from 2009, I would now describe back in 2009 as lifeless and drenched in chemicals. The hard work in rejuvenating the soil in the vineyards combined with an organic viticulture conversion and certification strategy has paid significant dividends that can now easily be seen and happily tasted in the resulting wine. Paradise Rescued was certified organic in 2017.
And so, what’s the point of the story? Vines will grow well on almost any soil. In Bordeaux they are alive and thriving at the airport; they grow in the middle of roundabouts, gardens and vineyards. How well they grow depends on more than just their location. It is that fourth dimension – the human contribution experience – that is also critical. Good wine is produced from healthy fruiting vines growing on great soil. And it is that combination of soil and human enterprise – not soil alone – that creates a great vineyard.
Could 2019 be a further step-up in quality or simply a consolidation of what we have already achieved at Paradise Rescued? Only the vintage will tell us, but I am really excited to see what will happen this year.
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Paradise Rescued is a certified Bordeaux organic vineyard, winery and wine producer.