Our philosophy at Domaine du Poujol is aimed at producing elegant, well-balanced wines that express the domaine's terroir. We are looking for more complex flavours beyond the classic flavours of each variety.
The varietal fruit flavours of a wine come from the grape cultivar - the mother vine - and from photosynthesis in the leaves. The terroir flavours come from the soil, through the vine roots and how the vine is nourished.
In order to optimise terroir flavours, the soil's influence on a vine must be maximised, which means that the soil must be alive. Chemical fertilisers and herbicides (especially anti-germinants against weeds) can de-vitalise a soil and in extreme cases reduce a soil to a sterile, neutral media for irrigating a plant - much like hydroponics.
At Domaine du Poujol, we use only organic fertilisers, and plough the soil to control the weeds. Ploughing aerates the soil and increases water infiltration which minimises erosion. This was proved on 11-12 December 2002 when we had 204 mm/ 8 inches of rain in 24 hours with no soil erosion whatsoever. We did lose both our roads, however, proving that a living soil can resist erosion whilst a dead one - a compacted dirt road - cannot.
Our efforts at maximising life in the vineyard do not end at the soils. Copper is the only certified organic treatment for mildew, a fungal disease which can rapidly destroy vegetation in humid climates. Small quantities of copper can be beneficial for the vineyards, but it can become toxic to soil organisms beyond two or three treatments a year. In wet vintages reliance on copper alone can be detrimental to the vitality of the vineyard. For this reason, we have adopted some bio-dynamic practices in order to reduce our dependence on chemical sprays, even organic certified ones.
In the winery, we use almost exclusively wild yeasts. We do use some cultivated yeasts on sub-components of the Rosé and white Pico to build complexity into these blends, but the red wines and the white Teras are exclusively fermented with wild yeast. We have found that not only does this help to express the terroir, because the mix of these yeasts is unique to Domaine du Poujol, but the fermentations are cleaner with fewer problems of stuck fermentations or high volatile acidity (vinegar flavours).
Because we are not trying to de-select yeasts coming in from the vineyard, we are able to work with much less sulphur dioxide. SO2 is an anti-oxidant and disinfecting agent first discovered by Louis Pasteur in the 1860s, for which no alternative product has yet been discovered. In the decade that we have been on the domaine we have found that a little SO2 can go a long way, but more does not always get you any further. Teras, for example, is harvested, pressed, clarified and fermented with no SO2 whatsoever. We do add a little at the end of fermentation and prior to bottling, about one-fifth of what is normal in the Languedoc.
To reduce the manipulation of a wine, we try to maximise natural stability. All of our wines are dry, with no fermentable sugar. Whenever possible, we encourage a secondary, bacterial fermentation of the wine's harsh malic acids to convert it to the softer lactic acid. This is systematic for reds, and for the white Teras, and partial for the white Pico and Rosé. Although we run fining trials, since 2005 we have not needed to fine the red and white wines and only occasionally the rosé. We never remove the natural CO2 gas from a wine, so the early-bottled Pico and Rosé can sometimes foam a little upon opening the bottle as the dissolved CO2 is released.
Rosé, Pico and Jazz are now bottled with a screw cap as we believe this best preserves the wine's freshness. Podio Alto and Bête Noire are bottled with natural corks as these more structured wines need a closure that can breath if they are to mature successfully over ten years.
We believe that wine is best as an accompaniment to food, and we try to make wines which will do just that, and give pleasure.