Robert (Bertie) Eden is perhaps the last person you would expect to find making wine in the Languedoc. The son of an English lord and the great nephew of former Prime Minister Anthony Eden, a career in politics would have seemed more likely. But some twenty years back he emigrated to France to pursue his true passion. Chateau Maris is something of a revolution in the very conservative Languedoc. Eden has led the charge in favor of farming vineyards biodynamically. In an interview with the UK paper Independent he discussed his conversion:
"Getting on the tractor, strapping on the mask and zipping up the overalls ready to spray the vines with chemicals made me think. It was like being a sewage pipe, spewing effluent into a river. I thought, 'This is revolting. We are going to drink this stuff. What are we doing?'"
Biodynamics goes beyond organic, embracing the idea that everything is connected, and how you treat the soil, the plants, the insects, the animals and the grapes you pick, they all have an impact on the quality of the harvest. It’s an intertwined, living system influenced by the pull of the moon and the sun—there’s an emphasis on harnessing these cycles. Natural matter is incorporated into the soil, sometimes in seemingly bizarre ways like burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow.
However you feel about the practice, it’s hard to argue with the results at Chateau Maris. Here’s a quote from The Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck about the wines: “. . .they’re impressive across the board and offer serious levels of fruit and texture, while staying fresh, balanced and very drinkable. They also represent superb values . . .”
But Eden didn’t stop his organic crusade at the vineyard— he carried on through to the winery. To call it green would be an understatement. Built from hemp lime bricks supported by a wood structure, with a planted roof, it regulates both temperature and moisture, while requiring no ventilation (other than roof vents), cooling or heating. Another plus is that the hemp absorbs CO2 decreasing the winery’s carbon footprint. In addition, as they absorb the CO2, a byproduct of fermentation, the bricks become darker and much harder. They should continue to carbonate for another 25 years. Here’s the line-up of wines we’re offering from this outstanding producer:
2014 Maris Old School Rouge, $11.99
A blend of young vine Syrah and Grenache from estate grown, handpicked fruit, fermented with natural yeast in concrete tanks. The goal (a successful one) is to create a wine that preserves the freshness of the fruit.
2013 Le Carignan de Maris, $12.99
Organic Carignan is blended with biodynamic Grenache (20 percent) in a wine that the Wine Advocate’s Jeb Dunnuck rated 91 points, extolling its classic plum, spring flowers, crushed rock and beautiful purity. Amazing value.
2013 Ch. Maris La Touge, $14.99
The Syrah and Grenache grapes for this wine are grown on a mix of hard and soft limestone and alluvial soils, hand picked, then aged in large oak vats. The nose offers black fruits with
notes of spice and herb. The silky flavors are a mix of raspberry and blackberry fruit. Another top scorer with a range of 88 to 91 points from the Wine Advocate.
2013 Ch. Maris Natural Selection, $14.99
A wine that’s about as green as you can get from the ultralight bottle to the recycled paper label, and with absolutely no chemical additives. It’s a lush, plush blend of biodynamically
grown Syrah and Grenache.