I first met Didier Barral (grandson of Leon Barral) about five years ago, outside his ancient winery in Faugeres. He appeared (rather aptly, I thought) out of the top of one of those ‘veggie’ cars, his hair standing on end as though he’d stuck his finger in a plug socket and his piercing eyes wild and exciting, if a little disturbing. In his hand, he carried an array of wild flowers and I remember him pushing them under my nose, such was his excitement at their fragrance. Didier’s one intent that afternoon was to ensure these stems were given space to grow and in turn extend another heady scent to his already multi-fragrant, biodynamic vineyard.
So off we trotted down the little lane beyond the winery to plant said flowers. We crossed through a field of cows and a bull, the latter doing its utmost to make me feel very uneasy (I really thought the bloody thing would charge at any moment). Oblivious of my nervousness, Didier stopped to select a random dollop of potent dung, proudly declaring that this was the source of his vineyard fertilizer. Don’t be surprised if you see cows grazing in Didier’s vineyards!
Didier founded Domaine Leon Barral in 1993 and immediately adopted biodynamic methods to the farming of his land. Cows, horses and pigs feature prominently (as well as the odd mule) and all contribute to the natural management of the soil by virtue of their grazing. In so doing, the animals form the basis for great microbiotic activity in the soil, leading to natural aeration and nutrient concentration. Didier believes that the ‘natural ploughing’ by grubs, worms and insects is far better than machine ploughed land. He wants a sustainable land that retains its natural pH and produces absolute 100% natural crops.
All of this nurturing is tremendous for the vines and grapes. The old ‘bush’ vines themselves are ancient (in some cases nearly 100 years old), and whilst this age means that yields are lower, the vines are in great shape with the quality of the fruit exquisite.
Didier’s natural ideology is of course also found in his winery. Natural yeast kick-starts the fermentation process and nothing is filtered or fined. Didier’s wines are amongst the most naturally produced in France.
There’s no doubting Didier’s capability. He achieves great complexity in both his red and white wine using methods that involve the least intervention with nature. All give off delicious, heady, wild flower and fruit aromas and we are delighted to introduce both his white (a blend of Terret, Viognier and Roussanne) and red ‘Tradition’ (Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault) to our range.