Philippe Garrey at Domaine Philippe Garrey.

t the southern end of the vast Mercurey appellation is the small village of Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu. This is where you’ll find Domaine Philippe Garrey, the first grower in the Côte Chalonnaise to become certified biodynamic back in 2011.

– It’s a small domaine, says Philippe Garrey. Only 4.5 hectares. Most of the time I do all the work myself. I took the first steps towards biodynamic farming in 2002 when I stopped using herbicides. In 2005 I began using biodynamic products. In 2007 the whole domaine had been converted to biodynamic farming and four years later I received my certification.

Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu.Like most domaines here Domaine Philippe Garrey only produces wine from the Mercurey appellation. Both red and white village appellation and three red premier crus.

– I worked with my father from 2002 to 2005, when he retired. Biodynamic farming was something that really appealed to me. I had tasted wines by biodynamic winegrowers, like Trapet in Gevrey-Chambertin, and I had enjoyed them very much. I liked the philosophy and I felt it was what I wanted to do when I took on the family domaine.

But the road to biodynamic farming was not easy. Far from it. Philippe Garrey smiles when he looks back his first steps converting the domaine.

– At first I understood absolutely nothing. I read a book by Nicolas Joly – ”Le Vin du Ciel à la Terre” – but all I felt was ”Phew! This is too complicated. It’s not for me”.

Domaine Philippe Garrey.In the end he carried on, despite the initial fears. He discussed biodynamic farming with colleagues and eventually met with Jacques Mell, a consultant specializing in biodynamic farming.

Domaine Philippe Garrey.– He is located in Champagne, but works with some domaines in Burgundy, explains Philipe Garrey. With him I took on biodynamic farming step by step. In 2007, the first year, he came to Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu three or four times. We worked together and he taught me about biodynamic farming. The second year he came twice and today he only comes here occasionally. But it requires a lot of time and effort in order to master biodynamic farming. And I really feel this is where I belong.

– In Mercurey, or even in the Côte Chalonnaise, there aren’t that many biodynamic winegrowers, says Philippe Garrey. I am the only one certified by Demeter in the Côte. There are some growers who are experimenting with biodynamic farming, but nothing in-depth. You have some organic growers, like Pierre de Benoist at Domaine de Villaine in Bouzeron and Vincent Dureuil at Domaine Dureuil-Janthial and Jean-Claude Brelière at Domaine Brelière, both in Rully.

Philippe Garrey is the sixth or seventh generation in his family working the vineyards around Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu. The first generations did not own any vines. They were vineyard workers tending the vines for a rich family. But in the end they were able to buy the vineyards and create a domaine of their own.

Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu.– That domaine was later split in two, says Philippe Garrey. There is another Domaine Garrey here in the village, the domaine of my cousin Hubert. My grandfather and his grandfather were brothers. They worked together for a long time but then eventually split the domaine so they got five or six hectares each. My cousin has got something like 20 hectares today. He has been buying a lot of land. My father split the domaine with his sister and I haven’t been buying much. I don’t want to grow the domaine. Maybe half a hectare or so, not more. Because if I did, then I would have to employ people.

Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu.All the vines of Domaine Philippe Garrey are centered around Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu. The white village appellation Mercurey comes from La Chagnée, a plot next to the premier cru Clos du Paradis. The red village appellation Mercurey is an old vines cuvée coming from two different parcels, one with 80-year-old vines and one with slightly younger vines, about 60-70-years-old.

– For the old vines cuvée I use 80–100 per cent whole bunches. This shows on the nose of the wine. At first you have a touch of medicinal plants, like eucalyptus. With a bit of air you get more of red fruits.

All three premier crus of Domaine Philippe Garrey are on your right side as you enter Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu coming from Mercurey – La Chassière, Clos du Paradis and Clos de Montaigu.

Philippe Garrey.– Clos du Paradis is just behind the house, says Philippe Garrey. Even if it’s right next to La Chassière it is not the same thing. The soil in La Chassière contains a lot of sand. The soil in Clos du Paradis is lighter, which also produces a lighter wine. The sand in La Chassière helps maintaining a higher temperature. This produces a rounder, more concentrated wine. La Chassière is early-ripening and this parcel has been in the family for a long time. It always produces very good results.

Clos de Montaigu is higher up, on a plateau. It is not particularly steep, facing east.

– I would say the altitude is about 280 metres, continues Philippe Garrey. I have my rows at the bottom of the clos, where the soil is deeper with more clay. There is always a bit of wind there, which keeps the grapes healthy. But it also means it is cooler than in La Chassière and Clos du Paradis.

© 2015 Ola Bergman