Moët & Chandon is the largest vineyard owner in the entire Champagne region—hence it comes as no surprise that they have a very vested interest in ensuring the viability and sustainability of their vineyards. Given the shifting climatic changes in the last decade, the winery is taking steps (as part of their Natura Nostra program) to get in front of these changes and better understand how their vineyards will need to adapt to survive climate change—and keep our shelves full of Champagne. The man behind all of this experimentation is Felix Bocquet, Moët & Chandon’s Director of Technical Development and Sustainable Viticulture. An agricultural engineer and oenologist by training, Bocquet is ardent and serious—fully aware of the importance of his job and the long-term implications of getting things right.
The data is hard to ignore explains Bocquet, “In the last 12 years the combination of climate hazards, aging vines and increased overall temperatures has resulted in a 26% decrease in yields.” And, even more worrying says Bocquet, “our vines are becoming less and less adapted to this environment. We are approaching the limit of our ecosystem if global warming continues at this rate.”
Waiting to see how things turn out is not an option. Adapting to the new reality is what keeps Felix Bocquet busy every day as he focuses on how to develop more resilient vine plants that are capable of withstanding different types of stress or constraints. Enter the Vine Conservatory—a nursery of seedlings that Bocquet and his team experiment with to better understand which vines are more durable against the ravages of a changing climate. For Bocquet, the nursery is much more than just a selection of seedling vines—it’s a vision for the future, an opportunity to, as he puts it, “take action and to take control of our destiny,” rather than letting climate change dictate the outcomes.
Moet & Chandon’s Natura Nostra encompasses several things in addition to the nursery, including protocols to protect winegrowers’ health and safety, reduce the domaine’s carbon footprint, and study more sustainable tillage practices and vineyard management techniques. Says Bocquet, “We no longer use herbicide, have reduced our inputs by 50% over the last 15 years and use the most environmentally friendly products. And, our fertilizer is 100% organic.”
Nothing happens overnight in this process though says Bocquet, “The construction of the project alone will take two years, and the experiments and studies will yield some answers in ten years or so.” As with wine, nature takes time to reveal itself. It’s a good thing Bocquet is as patient as he is passionate.