Leon Barral

Didier Barral is a thirteenth-generation winegrower but really we think of him as more of a biodynamic farmer. He is in essence a polyculturist, a worm/insect/animal farmer, a thinker, a tinkerer and a renaissance man…

The Barral family has been growing vines in the hamlet of Lenthéric, part of the Faugères appellation in the heart of the Languedoc for centuries. In the early 1990’s, Didier decided to estate-bottle the wines and created Domaine Léon Barral, named after his grandfather. From the start, he wanted to implement biodynamic farming, but with a large domaine of 35 hectares he knew it would be a challenge so began with the singular aim of creating a self-sustaining ecosystem in his vineyards. Didier pioneered a wide range of practices to return natural balance to his soils, ultimately creating a biodiverse domaine overflowing with life. Local grapes flourish in this harsh, dry, windy region in parcels enclosed by trees, with thriving soils where all living organic matter is protected.

Didier has made significant advances in soil management, pest control and drought mitigation, and has strong views and opinions on all manner of organic and biodynamic viticulture. But he is not at all dogmatic and resists imperatives. From his insistence on bush training, the equipment he uses (or declines to use) in the vineyards, or his dedication to polyculture, he speaks only for himself – but with incredible detail and fortitude resulting from decades of observation and experimentation.

All work is done naturally and with as little intervention as possible, with a common sense approach to encourage the optimal life of the soil. He uses straddle tractors to avoid compaction, makes compost from recycled cardboard cartons and avoids all chemical treatments. He fosters worm colonies to enrich soils, and builds nesting boxes for bats, offering refuge to these nocturnal allies who eat the insects responsible for grape worms.

Domaine Léon Barral is a model of sustainability at its finest – where an ecosystem thrives autonomously, under the watchful eye of Didier. It is the diagram of a farm that would have existed in the 19th century – with animals, fruit trees and cereals all co-mingling with rows of grape vines. If only, large scale agriculture could learn from people like Didier.

The result of these efforts are complex, powerful wines that develop exceptionally over time. The slightly acid schist soils give an earthy, mineral note to his four cuvées – three red and one white. All are made from a blend of local grapes: Terret Gris, and blanc Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah andMourvèdre.

Didier considers the wine all but finished once it leaves the vineyard, and practices hands-off winemaking. The various grapes are vinified separately, and always as whole bunches – nothing is destemmed. Fermentation uses only indigenous yeasts and long macerations get regular manual punch-downs. Most of the wines are aged for at least two years in wood, with a few in cement and stainless steel tanks. All wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. Each wine features a signature freshness and acidity – which Didier believes is achieved thanks to his thriving soils, and intense flavours – which are the result of his dedication to low yields and the use of many old vines.

Although Courbissac and Ledogar are making sensational wine, one might be tempted to consider Didier as the King of the Languedoc. His approach is singularly uncompromising and the region where he operates, the hills of Faugeres is that bit more ‘sauvage’ and barren. He wines certainly have a regal character to them and age forever. We would urge you to add a case to your cellar.

Didier-Barral
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Faugeres Tradition Leon Barral
Le Blanc Leon Barral
Faugeres Jadis

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