oing organic just wasn’t enough. In fact, when Thiebault Huber decided to take on the family domaine in Volnay he quickly realised that organic would be just a transition period. Biodynamic was the goal.
– To be just organic was actually a bit boring, he smiles. But at first I just found biodynamic confusing. It was too esoteric. Too much about the stars and very little about the stuff down here. But Frédéric Lafarge had a vineyard next to me. He turned biodynamic in 1998 and I could see his vineyard change in just a few years.
In Thiebault Huber’s family they skipped a generation of winegrowers. Born and raised in Alsace he set out to become a sommelier. But things did not turn out as planned. In the long run he couldn’t picture himself working in a restaurant for the rest of his life.
– I’m Thiebault Huber, he says. But the domaine is Domaine Huber-Verdereau. Two family names. My father, Pierre Huber, was Alsatian. My maternal grandfather, Raoul Verdereau, was a winegrower in Volnay. He retired in 1974. At the time I was four years old living in Alsace. But my parents decided to keep the vineyards and between 1974 and 1990 they were let to other growers.
Jean-Michel Deiss, of Domaine Marcel Deiss in Bergheim, is partly responsible for Thiebault Huber’s career change.
– I was doing harvest with him in 1989. He asked me what I was doing. He told me I had to go to Burgundy. Since I had both three hectares of vines and a house he thought it would be crazy not to go. At the same time, wine had always been a passion of mine and I had always dreamt about making my own wine.
– So in 1991 I was back in Volnay, says Thiebault Huber. I worked with my cousin Jean-Marc Bouley, Thomas’ father, for three years. 1994 was my first vintage.
Since then Domaine Huber-Verdereau has tripled in size. Focus is on Volnay and Pommard, with a bit of Monthelie, Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Mercurey thrown in.
– When I started I immediately felt I wanted to work organically. I’m not quite sure why, but as a sommelier I had met many of the first organic winegrowers in France. In the beginning it was very difficult. Between 1994 and 2000 I used some chemicals, but never any herbicides.
– In 2002 I began working with Pierre Masson and the following year I did my first trials with biodynamic farming. In 2004 half of the domaine was biodynamic and in 2005 the rest followed.
The nine hectares of vines at Domaine Huber-Verdereau are distributed over 32 different parcels. In terms of surface area his biggest appellation is the Bourgogne rouge, coming from vines in Volnay just across the route nationale. There is some Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune in Bouze-lès-Beaune, a very steep 1.41 hectare parcel with lots of limestone.
– It is planted with between twelve and 15 per cent of pinot beurot, explains Thiebault Huber. That’s why this wine is always a bit lighter in colour. The pinot beurot has more of pink skin. 50 per cent see cement tanks. For the rest I use 350- and 500-litre barrels. Compared to the Bourgogne rouge this is a very different wine. Much more mineral.
In Volnay he produces another three wines. Two village appellation – Volnay, Les Robardelles and a straight Volnay – and one premier cru, Les Frémiets.
– Part of Les Robardelles is premier cru. Unfortunately my parcel is not located in that part. I only have village appellation. But the vines are old. My grandfather planted them in 1943, a total of 0.6 hectare. The soil is quite deep in some places, less so in others. A normal year the yield is between 28 hl/ha and 32 hl/ha.
The other village Volnay comes from five different parcels, all located around Les Famines on the Pommard side of Volnay. All is vinified together.
– This Volnay is very different from Les Robardelles because we are on the opposite side of the village, says Thiebault Huber. There is much more limestone. The soil is richer. This produces a Volnay with more power.
In 2010 Thiebault Huber bought Clos du Colombier in Pommard. As the name suggests it is a walled vineyard, located up behind the village in the valley which leads up into the Hautes-Côtes. The small stream in Pommard cuts right through the vineyard. Since he had been living next to the vineyard for a long time he was thrilled when he got the opportunity to buy it.
– I had seen it every morning for twenty years when I opened my window, he says. The whole clos is 0.80 hectare. Part of it is village appellation, part of it premier cru. The premier cru part is 0.25 hectare and it is also the part which has more limestone.
The previous owner sold the village appellation grapes to Bouchard in Beaune and kept the premier cru grapes. Thiebault Huber keeps all grapes and since he is the sole owner of the clos he can put monopole on the label. All grapes go into the same cuvée. The wine is labelled as village appellation, but priced as a premier cru.
– Since the clos is in the middle of the valley it is always a bit windy. So it never becomes too warm here. The closer to the stream you get the darker the soil gets. It is interesting to blend the grapes from the different types of soil. The wall does not have much of an impact. It protects the three rows closest to it. But that’s about it.
In Pommard Thiebault Huber also produces a premier cru – Les Bertins just south of the village. The vines were planted in 1959.
– The soil is dark brown, says Thiebault Huber. Between 0.8 metre and 1 metre deep. Under that you have large blocks of limestone. Very different soil compared to Clos du Colombier. You can easily keep the wines for 15 years.
© 2016 Ola Bergman