In 2014 Valentin Morel took over his family’s domaine after deciding it was time for a career change. In fact, it was after law school and a career as a civil servant that Valentin decided to return to his rural origins. The decision to make a career change early in his life was a result of a few circumstances.
Firstly, it can’t go without mentioning the tale of the mechanic by the Americain writer, Matthew B. Crawford, in this career change decision. Actually, if this book wasn’t the trigger for the career change, it nonetheless helped Valentin finalize a reflection on “the sense and value of work.” This book should be considered a manifesto of an intellectual approach to professions wrongly deemed as simple “manual labor.”
It’s also in discovering the writings of Rudolf Steiner (first known as an educator) that Valentin took over the domaine, converting it naturally towards biodynamics. Steiner’s monumental body of work is extremely impressionable and while it often guides skeptics to doubt its pertinence, it nevertheless deserves respect. His power of perception of the material world and his numerous premonitions in the world of agriculture via his Agriculture Course makes him a philosopher whose invitation to observation and meditation accompany us through the seasons.
A more contemporary and singular philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka, author of the celebrated One Straw Revolution passed to us a philosophy of work, not less original and which can be summarized by this reflection: “Human beings do wrong with their meddlings, leave damage which cannot be undone, and then when unfavorable results accumulate, they react with all their might to repair it.” The introduction of TCS (simplified cultivation techniques) at the domaine was obviously established as part of a reflection provoked by these remarks.
“Les pieds sur terre” translates firstly to a state of mind, but is also understood as a tribute to our peer-pioneers of organics who, though often ridiculed, in reality chose this method of cultivation in a pragmatic and visionary way. Finally, it is a reference to a radio show, which bears the same name and accompanies us daily in our vineyards.
In the vines:
The Jurassic soils are reputed as difficult to work. The domaine is composed of Triassic marne, more or less heavy, and require much work in the vineyard. Valentin believes more than 80% of a wine is made in the vineyard. So, he recognizes the importance of this work and does all he can to benefit the life of the soil.
The domaine employes the biodynamic preparations 500 (cow manure), 501 (horn silica), and 508 (horsetail tincture). See also our Anjou vigneron Thomas Batardiere.
Throughout the growing season, the vineyards receive classic treatments of sulfur and xxx, but those that are systematically finished by horsetail, nettle, comfrey, and queen of the meadow or yarrow teas.
Throughout his Alsacian experience, Valentin learned a lot of simplified cultivation techniques (TCS). We plant a vegetable groundcover or green manure with a system of direct seeding. This aims to correct, more naturally than mechanical tools would, the soil properties. Thus, the crucifers (radishes, cabbages…) will uncompact and aerate the soils, the legumes (clover, beans, peas) will enrich the soils with nitrogen, while the honey plants (phacelia and cosmos) benefit the surrounding fauna; all of which naturally improves the microbiological life of the soils. These covers are rolled (and not mowed) with the help of a roller that crushes the covers.
The work under the row is done mechanically with blades and largely with the skill par excellence of the winemaker: a pickaxe and some elbow grease!
In the Cellar
The domaine produces all of the wines and vinifies all of their harvest. This is entirely manual (in 30kg containers), and the fermentations are done with indigenous yeasts.
Valentin says that the objective of vinification consists, per the recommendation of Fukuoka, to avoid any meddling which creates wines that are anything more than fermented grape juice, which is what a wine should be. Oenological additives are banned and the addition of sulfur is tolerated depending on the vintage and the cuvee, but always at very low levels; all of the wines contain less than 20mg/l of SO2.