The Castelneau estate extends over about a hundred hectares, surrounded by woodlands boasting oaks, chestnuts, hornbeams and false acacias. Whilst about forty hectares include fields of wheat, maize and even sunflowers, or lie fallow, around thirty are dedicated to vineyards of quality, twenty-three hectares of red and seven of white.
Castelneau is fortunate in having some very old Sémillon vines planted at the end of the 19th century. They are among the oldest examples in the area of vines grafted onto the now famous American rootstock and planted after the phylloxera epidemic. The rootstock was promoted by Alexis Millardet (inventor of the ‘Bouillie bordelaise’ pesticide) and a colleague and friend of Albert Seignouret, author himself of several treatises on phylloxera and member of the group of five who fought against this parasite.
Some white Merlot and white Ugni (also called St Emillion) of little value have been removed. An acre or so of Colombar, author of some fine vats, has sadly disappeared, prey to new regulations (drawn up by producers of red wine), which sought to ban this very floral variety.
The average age of of Castelneau vines is twenty-five years. Every year about an acre of stock is removed and replanted. Vines are planted one metre apart, with three metres between the rows. They are dug over on alternate rows with grass allowed to grow in the intervening row enabling a lower yield and a better surface for the tractors. New stock is planted every metre in rows two metre apart.
Working towards organic viticulture
Our policy of planting hedges around the Castelneau vines over the last ten years will enable us to no longer use insecticides. These hedges provide a home for the typhlodromus mites, predators of the mites and other insects that attack vines. The 4.8 kilometres of hedgerows planted around the vines make Castelneau the first vineyard protecting itself in this way.
Similarly, Loïc de Roquefeuil is trialling a new method which would make it possible to avoid using dessicant herbicides (notably for side shoot removal), a common process which is incompatible with the desire to produce wines as naturally as possible.