The Domaine currently applies the principles of ‘lutte raisonnée’ or sustainable agriculture, tending towards organic farming, notably for the end of year treatments. Since the Domaine was established in 2000, the question of organic farming has been considered.
The springtime and the beginning of summer constitute the period when treatments against the development of oidium and mildew take place. Louis-Michel wished to ponder the problem in its entirety. Organic farming requires at least ten treatments , whereas more conventional methods limits these treatments to six. The greater number of treatments, the more often the soils are compressed. It is essential to find a method of treatment that limits the compacting effect before moving on to organic farming.
This could have been solved by acquiring a prototype of a tractor (now produced in volume) designed by a company in the Saone et Loire weighing only 1100 kilos as opposed to the traditional three ton tractor. This lightweight ‘three wheeler’ can both treat and prune. The problems of the soil being partially resolved, there is another concern in organic viticulture: the amount of copper put into the vineyards. Effectively, the element, copper, has a toxic effect on the life of the soil and the amount needs to be limited. New formulas for biological products seem to offer smaller concentrations of copper, a development that would permit the Domaine to envisage organic farming, or even evolving to biodynamic farming.
Current treatments are limited as much as possible. Once the clusters are fully formed, usually during the second week of July, treatments are stopped. This avoids two supplementary treatments as some domaines continue treating until ripening occurs in mid-August.
No anti-rot treatments are applied for the following three reasons:
- On one hand, the necessity for such a treatment is proof that one did not know how to master the vigor of the vines
- On the other hand, it is an anti-fungicide that is used and not only does it destroy the fungi, but also the least resistant yeasts. By doing so, one is harming the total effect of a particular terroir as each terroir has its ‘panel’ of yeasts, and each yeast contributes its part to the construction of a wine
- The last of these treatments (further compacting of the soil) takes place just before the clusters are fully formed. The cluster could contain a chemical phytosanitary product that is not washed away but will be found albeit in minute quantities in the vats. This could influence vinification.
Finally, concerning the devastating enemy of vines called ‘the cluster worm’, Eudemis and Cochylis, insects who lay their eggs in the grape bunches encouraging the development of rot: the biological method is applied in the village of Vosne-Romanée by placing pheromone capsules in the vineyards that prevent the males and females of the species from meeting and mating. This is called ‘sexual confusion’.
It is essential to plough the vineyards and not to weed them chemically in order to let the terroirs express their characteristics. This method protects the microbiological life of the soil essential in providing harmony to the different elements that constitute the soil.
In 2002 the Domaine decided to use a horse for ploughing and hired a company that provided this service. After three years it became necessary to find a better solution, and the Domaine purchased a horse in order to continue ‘in house’ instead of outsourcing. 2005 was a time of transition between the tractor and the horse. Certain modifications needed to be done, notably removing large blocks of stone on the surface of certain rows of vines, not at all a problem for a tractor but definite obstacles for a plough drawn by a horse.
The decision to use a horse has no relationship whatsoever with publicity. If this were the case, the Domaine would not have invested in the purchase of a horse, but simply ‘rented’ a horse for its most prestigious and visible vineyards.
The principal interest of using a horse is to limit compacting the soil. Whatever the critics of using a horse say, a horse compacts the soil far less than a tractor. Effectively, the step of a horse is random and never occurs in exactly the same place. Perhaps the compression is heavy under the weight of the horse’s shoe but it always occurs in a different place. In the case of a tractor, the pressure and weight are homogenous on the entire length and width of a row. The soil tilled by the tractor’s front wheels, is immediately pressed down by the tractor’s back wheel. One could consider that it is possible to weed mechanically using a tractor but never to plough.
Finally, it is noticeable that compacting is more evident in predominantly clay-ey rather than limestone soils. Clay soils are found principally at the base of the Côte d’Or slopes and in the plain of the Saône in village appellations. Therefore it appears to be important to plough in the village appellations rather than in the grands and premiers crus…
Domaine Liger-Belair is presently composed of twelve appellations, comprising 5.53 hectares, situated in the communes of Vosne-Romanée, Flagey-Echézeaux, and Nuits-St-Georges. These include the monopole Grand Cru La Romanée (.84 ha.), and a parcel of Grand Cru Echézeaux (.6 ha.); a most impressive lineup of Vosne-Romanée, Premiers Crus — Aux Reignots (.75 ha), Les Suchots (.22 ha) , Aux Brûlees (.12 ha) , Les Petits Monts (.13 ha), Les Chaumes (.12 ha); 3 parcels of village-level Vosne-Romanée, totaling 2.26 hectares, including the monopole lieu-dit Clos du Château (.83 ha.) , the lieu-dit La Colombière (.78 ha.), and a third village-leval parcel of .65 hectares ; together with two parcels of Nuits-St-Georges, the one a parcel of Premier Cru Les Cras (.37 ha.) and the other a parcel of the lieu-dit Les Lavières (.13 ha.).