Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sébastien Bonneaud - Le vigneron au beret

Sébastien’s family have traced their roots back to 1570 when the family was established in the Dordogne. They tended their own vines since at least the 1780s but records from before the revolution have been lost. Sébastien’s great grandfather had vines, and his great great grandfather was a cooper. His maternal grandfather was also a cooper, and today his cousin has his own cooperage in the Landes – Tonnellerie Bartholomo.
Sébastien grew up tending vines with his father, learning the craft of winemaking as a boy. He says that his father taught him almost everything, and that becoming a winemaker just happened naturally. Formal viticulture and vinification studies gave him the technical background which completed this, but “dans l’absolu” he learned most from his father.
He did his viticulture and oenological studies in Bordeaux. He would have liked to continue the family domaine but they had only 11 ha in AOC Bergerac to split between Sébastien and his 5 younger sisters. To make it viable Sébastien needed to buy the vines of his sisters and unfortunately the necessary financial support was not forthcoming from the bank. Sébastien’s father sat on the opposite political fence to that of the bank manager.
Sébastien therefore had to pursue his wine career by working for other people. In the summer of 2011, Sébastien met Christopher Spencer. Christopher needed to find a winemaker capable of taking charge and developing the domaine Spencer La Pujade. He recognised Sébastien’s talent instantly and Sébastien took on full responsibility at the end of October 2011.
Christopher had bought an old 19thC winery in the village of Ferrals-les-Corbières, but it had lain unused for decades and needed total renovation. Together, they set about creating a winery and domaine fit to deliver the final objective –to be one of the leading domaines of the Corbières, by quality and by reputation.
The other part of the vision which is fundamental to Sébastien’s thinking is an approach which is in total harmony with the environment, and his language is peppered with expressions like “respect de la nature”.
In the vineyards he uses minimal intervention, often using half the number of treatments as his neighbours, for example. He has totally stopped using pesticides and herbicides and this winter he is evaluating the next step. Biodynamic viticulture is the ultimate goal.
“Il ne faut pas renier ses origines!” (you must not turn your back on your origins) is a very strong ethic in Sébastien’s world-view. Sébastien believes that Carignan is THE variety of the Languedoc, and he is on a mission to demonstrate the qualities of this variety to the world.

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