Claude Courtois, Racines Rouge


One of the most sought-after Natural wine and hard to come-by, like the wines of Pierre Overnoy; Claude Courtois' Racines comes from hand-harvested, destemmed and gently pressed grapes (Gamay, Côt, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Gascon Noir... from 20hl/ha) fermented together. Vines grown on a flinty clay soil, cultivated with the least intervention possible; vine treatments are made from nettle, horsetail, flowers of sulphur and minute doses of Bordeaux mixture. Matured 30 months in barrels, no new oak. Neither fined nor filtered, and without added sulphites. As Claude tells us, good wine isn’t bad for our health, it comforts the body and spirit.

Deep purple in the glass the nose is redolent with pounded stones, plum, cherries, warm iron and damp chalk. The palate has great depth of dried currant, fig and plum hewn to a deep mineral bed. The wine has lovely acidity, a terrific structure and finishes with red berry fruit and mineral zest. Such vitality as if the roots referred to had sucked the life blood from the very soil.

Biodynamic, Natural                       

Claude Courtois does not consider himself to be a biodynamic farmer yet has created a small farm that exemplifies what biodynamics is in terms of biodiversity and self-sufficiency. Courtois also grows organic wheat, which he then feeds to his cows who in turn provide manure to fertilise his fields. "Nothing comes into my vineyard" says Courtois, meaning no chemicals ever. He has created a well-balanced, biodiversity with trees, fruit trees, vines, woods & fields. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic chemicals of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil of the vineyards. He has his own methods for promoting the diverse life of the soil. The grapes – Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Côt (Malbec), Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc & Pineau d’ Aunis and maybe up to a further forty varieties (!)—are harvested by hand and only indigenous yeasts are used during fermentation. Claude regards the soil on his farm as a living organism. The wines here aren’t submitted to a rigid temperature control and there are fluctuations along the seasons, which doesn’t seem to harm the wines, it could even make them more apt to stand their SO2-free life without accident.

Claude is growing older and has started to pass over the winemaking to his son, Etienne, who is showing great promise. Currently Claude looks after the Racines, and Etienne produces the rest. Etienne is another brilliant example of the younger generation taking over, bringing a new level of presicion to the winemaking. As Claude did before him, Etienne is continuing the tradition of very long elevage while also experimenting with shorter elevage for bright, fresh wines. Etienne works according to the precepts that his father taught him and without compromise, he works without chemistry in the vines, and without inputs for winemaking. The wines are distinguished and faithful to the trademark of the domaine.