Portraits Vignerons - Stephane Yerle : Je me bats pour une viticulture bio plus progressiste - Les Grappes

Stephane Yerle: "I'm fighting for a more progressive organic viticulture."

Originally from the Basque country and the Pyrenees, Stephane Yerle started working with Alain Brumont in 1995 before launching his own projects. Today he is a consultant in wine production and winemaker with his wife Cécile at Vila Voltaire. His love affair with the Languedoc, the old vines, his defense of organic and innovation... Stephane Yerle tells us all about his career, without any tongue in cheek!

Stephane Yerle : winemaker and wine consultant in the Languedoc

When I left my agricultural engineering school in Angers, the Bordeaux region seemed to me to be rather sclerotic in terms of land. The Languedoc was more welcoming financially but also historically for people who are starting out in wine for the first time. Here in the Mediterranean, I love the history of the grape variety: the Carignan behaves extremely well, and then there is the art of living, the olive trees... it's a charm! Investing in old vines that were to be uprooted was an exercise in style. At Vila Voltaire, we wanted to show that these vines have a lot of appeal and yield. We find vines that have a capacity to store a lot of sugar in the trunks, so they are much more solid and we obtain a stability in the style of the vintages.

It was on the internet that Cécile and I found our winegrower's house, a real coup de coeur in the 2000s. With its old cellar, its old stones and its thermal inertia, this house represented the winegrowing past and incredible opportunities. Our family project is centered on the idea of working in autonomy, being able to do everything alone. If we had had some distance from the estate, it would have been difficult to reconcile our two professional activities of winemaker and consultant. Today, my activity as a consultant is first and foremost a food source: it allows me to be more solid and confident in my activity as a winemaker. It is also an autonomy with regard to the banks... it allows us to be winemakers at our own pace. On the other hand, my activity as a winegrower brings me a lot in terms of consulting: I have been advising a client in organic wine for a long time in the Corbières, so I can bring him all my expertise as an organic winegrower.

Stephane Yerle, winemaker at Vila Voltaire: "I fight for a more progressive organic viticulture

For me organic is not "not doing", it is "doing something else" with a different technical approach. I fight for a more progressive organic viticulture, free from restrictions. This requires a lot of monitoring and experimentation, but it is worth it. Indeed, being under the thumb of pharmaceutical backers, research has stopped investing in alternative viticultural approaches for some years. On our side, we are trying to regain freedom in organic viticulture and winemaking.

For us, it is imperative to stop sulfiting the harvest. If sulfur is a good antioxidant, it is also a solvent that is not selective, so we extract as many good things as bad. With our organic methods and the Languedoc climate, we can afford to let it "diffuse", let things come naturally. Alas, for too long, organic has been abandoned by public institutes. An old-timer dared to say that organic was not viable in the long term, but that is because we are not given the means to improve it. It is up to the public authorities to finance research to develop alternative solutions.

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