“If wine were to disappear from human production, I believe it would cause an absence, a failure in health and intellect, a void much more terrifying than all the recesses and the deviations for which wine is regarded as responsible.”Charles Baudelaire
Simon has been cultivating with passion his grandfather’s vineyard plot
In southwest of France, on the outskirts of Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques, a promising young winegrower, Simon Ribert, has recently joined the selective club of winegrowers working with horses. As he is about to enter his thirties, Simon has been cultivating with passion for 8 years his grandfather’s vineyard plot, composed of old Tannat and Cabernet Franc, in addition to 2 rented plots on which he has planted Petit and Gros Manseng. On his 12-hectare estate named Stratéus, Simon produces red Madiran and white Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh.
Developing organic wine and intertwining the animal with the plant
As he likes to say, Simon enjoys “intertwining the animal with the plant”. Next to the vineyards, Angus cattle, sheep and soon black pigs are raised in liberty. His younger brother Charles supports him, as well as his parents. Simon does not have a cellar but an undeniable know-how. He develops his wine in the cellars of Castelnau and Crouseilles.
For his top-quality wine, this year he has called on an animal traction service provider, Gilles Fougerousse, who came from the French Riviera, South-East, with his young female apprentice Marie and his horses Coco and Dino. Gilles has been providing animal traction services for seven years in PACA region. Simon could not find such a service provider in his immediate area and Gilles agreed to move to southwest. This is needed to cover the four hectares of the base of Simon’s vines and protect them against first frosts.
Horse traction: both a pleasure for Simon and benefits for his vines
During this autumnal week, Simon’s rows of vines are dressed in gold. On the horizon at the top of the hillside surrounded by scarlet trees, the silhouettes of Gilles, Marie, Coco and Dino, followed by Simon’s one, are gradually taking shape.
Coco the hardened, a black horse Trait du Nord, and Dino the apprentice, a white horse Percheron, are moving to the sound of Marie and Gilles’ gentle injunctions. Gilles praises Coco for his skills, intelligence, power and outstanding endurance. Cheered on by his master, Dino, a little clumsy on his first day of ploughing, is quickly learning. Horses are resting after 2 or 3 round trips between the rows of vines. Their work is slow, immutable but accurate. Simon and his family participate in the ploughing.
During the break, Simon explains the benefits of horse traction: protecting his vines against the frost, helping organic matter decomposition, limiting soil compaction and avoiding motorization and CO2 emissions. He emphasizes his pleasure to work at animal’s pace and to feel the earth. At the beginning of spring, Gilles will come back with Dino and Coco to do the work in the opposite direction, to uncover the base of the vines, to make them breathe.
An expensive technique that relies on crowd funding
The technique is expensive: 10,000 euros to maintain for one year the 4 hectares of vines dedicated to his top-quality wine. For the next 3 years, Simon has called on a selective crowd funding website, “Winefunding”, which provides to selected project bearers, in addition to funds, a wonderful recognition of their wine-making practice.
Simon’s wine already recognized by top French chefs
And at the word “recognition” Simon’s eyes shine: Paul Bocuse, the famous restaurant in Lyon, will from now propose Simon’s sweet white wine at his tables. And as good news never come alone, the chief Alexandre Mazzia in Marseille will propose to his guests Simon’s dry white wine.
A story created in November 2021