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Responsible Vineyard Agriculture in Provence

With the harvest behind us, our consultant viticulturist Clément and his team have been focusing on continuing our journey to regenerating the Domaine’s soil.

Traditionally, vineyards are monocultures that are sprayed and ploughed, providing neatly manicured rows of vines and eliminating all ‘competition.’ However, this process oxidizes the soil leaving it devoid of essential nutrients. The practice of bare soil is desertifiying vineyards (i.e. no plants or flowers are growing in-between the vines and so very little insect life). This leads to erosion and compacting as well as causing a lack of biodiversity above and below the soil. And when you consider that the vine’s total surface area has with the soil is typically less than 1%, this has caused us to rethink how we farm the Domaine Mirabeau.

Responsible Agriculture

Biodynamic farming takes a firm dedication to use agricultural techniques to maintain soil health and crop production. Some key components include crop rotation, interplanting, composting and awareness of the solar and lunar cycles. Essentially the farmer becomes the project manager responsible for managing the various pieces in the natural environment.

Considered the precursor to organic farming, the origins of biodynamics date back to 1924 and Dr. Rudolf Steiner’s vision for holistic agriculture. France is generally well-recognized for sustainable viticulture practices.

Here is the trailer for The Biggest Little Farm. The true story of a couple who leave LA to develop a piece of scrubland in California. The movie is about their hard work on the land, planting orchard trees, crops, and managing farm animals.

Biodiversity: One can think of biodiversity at the other end of the spectrum from monoculture. Biodiversity is an environment where diverse organisms thrive together in the same natural space. At Domaine Mirabeau, they plan to plant various fruit and nut trees that are well-adapted to Provence’s climate. Almond, fig and stone fruit trees are all found commonly in the region and will each play a role in attracting bees, birds and other species that help with pollination. And then there’s compost tea!

Regenerative Agriculture: This farming practice lets nature work its magic by slowly rebuilding the nutrient stores by introducing organic matter. Our goal at Mirabeau Wine is to grow grapes in healthy soil and have a positive ecological impact. A fascinating Netflix documentary called Kiss the Ground explains how regenerative farming can reverse climate change while improving food nutrition.

Organic Agriculture: In France, the “Bio” means organic, and the regulations are rigid. We’re at the very beginning of this journey here at Domaine Mirabeau, having stopped conventional farming when Stephen and Jeany purchased the domaine in September 2019, and we’re now on our four-year conversion to the organic designation.

In many ways, organic farming is a return to early agricultural practices before the creation of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The organic approach mandates the use of natural fertilizers such as compost and manure. This agricultural philosophy shuns the use of genetically modified products and synthetic substances and focuses on sustainable cultivation. Organic farming standards are regulated at the country level and internationally.

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Maison Mirabeau Wine

Maison Mirabeau Wine

Stephen had been in the corporate world for 15 years and in August 2008 turned down a promotion that would have meant more money but also more stress, longer hours and less time with his young family. For many years the Cronks had been dreaming and talking about moving to France to make their own wine, but the moment never seemed quite right to make the big leap.

Soon after, a good redundancy offer seemed the perfect opportunity to turn the dream into reality and after selling their beloved house, they left the leafy suburbs of south-west London in August 2009. Their worldly possessions were packed up on the back of a truck and with barely a word of French between them, the family headed south to a small village called Cotignac, in the heart of Provence.

The Cronks spent a year getting their bearings, learning to live the provençal way, as Stephen was criss-crossing the country researching and finding the best vineyards to work with. The next step was setting up a small wine business with the principle objective of making a Provence rosé that would be regarded as one of the very best from the region, while building a brand that people would grow to love. In order to achieve this aim, they put together a highly experienced winemaking team and threw their heart and soul into the brand and innovative communications with their customers. Mirabeau is now being sold in more than 30 markets, has won medals and earned acclaim from some of the world’s toughest wine critics, but what really makes Stephen happiest is that their wines are an integral part of people having a great time together.

Read more about the Mirabeau Wine story here.

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