Château Falfas is a Biodynamic estate vineyard and winery in the Côtes de Bourg AOC on the right bank of the Bordeaux region. It was bought in 1989 by John Cochran, an American lawyer based in Paris, and his wife Véronique. They converted Falfas to Biodynamic practices (certified by the Syndicat International des Vignerons en Culture Bio-Dynamique or SIVCBD).
Owner | Ets Riveaux Beychade. The late John Cochran III and his wife Véronique (née Bouchet).
Background | In the 14th and 15th centuries the domain belonged to the Seigneurs of Lansac, noblesse d’epée and loyal to the English crown. The first record of winemaking at this site dates from 1612 when the estate was acquired by the Sires de Riveaux. They built the chateau in the Louis XIII style. At the end of the C17th the chateau passed to Gaillard de Falfas, of the Parlement de Guyenne. He restored it and gave it his name. In December 1988 John Cochran III, an American lawyer based in Paris, and his wife Véronique, daughter of François Bouchet, France’s pioneer Biodynamic consultant for vineyards in France, purchased Château Falfas. Veronique’s brother Mathieu runs the family’s estate in the Loire, Domaine du Château Gaillard. This is also Biodynamic.
Vineyards | The Falfas vineyards cover over 20 hectares (45 acres) on clay-rich topsoils on a calcareous base. The terrain consists of rolling hills. These face south west near the market town of Bourg, and overlook the Gironde estuary on its way to the Atlantic. Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Cabernet Franc and Malbec (10% combined).
Biodynamics | Falfas has been certified Biodynamic to the Demeter Biodynamic standard since 1989. It is a founder member the SIVCBD, France’s first group of certified Biodynamic wine-growers, and whose logo is “Biodyvin”.
Initially Biodynamic preparations were bought from a Biodynamic farmer in eastern France called M Paulus, but from 1991 the Cochrans purchased their Biodynamic preparations from Véronique’s father, François Bouchet, the pioneer Biodynamic consultant for vineyards in France. Véronique’s brother, Mathieu, also runs a Biodynamic vineyard, in Anjou-Saumur in the Loire (see Domaine du Château Gaillard).
Véronique Cochran describes Biodynamic practices at Falfas as being consistent with what her father advises other winegrowers he works with to follow. She stresses that of course there is a degree of interpretation too, to deal with specific conditions caused by seasonal variations like changes in the weather or by the age of the vines. Newly planted ones are extra-vigorous (especially in Bordeaux’s Atlantic influenced climate) and the eldest are especially susceptible to diseases of the vine wood like esca and eutypiose (in which case nettle tea and horsetail decoction are applied to stimulate the vine sap and to discourage the fungal spores respectively).
As a general rule however at Falfas the Horn Silica 501 field spray is applied on the vines just after picking whilst the leaves are yet to fall, to encourage the sap to descend into the vine roots and to encourage the vine to ripen its wood on into winter so that when the leaves to fall no open wound is left (here the 501 is sprayed in the afternoon, not the morning); then the Maria Thun Barrel Compost is sprayed on the ground, and the ground ploughed, to stimulate microbial activity in the soil and to aid the decompostion of organic matter; pruning wounds are sprayed with a pruning wash based on clay, cow manure and ewe, cow or goat milk to prevent fungal spores capable of rotting and killing the vine from forming.
In spring the Horn Manure (500) field spray is applied on the soil in the afternoon to stimulate the vine roots to root more deeply in the Earth, while the Horn Silica 501 is sprayed over the vines under the rising sun (in the morning) before flowering and again during the growing season to stimulate the vine’s response to the Sun: more upright growth, greater photosynthetic activity in the leaves, heralthier vines, riper grapes.
Certification | 1988 Demeter (Ecocert) Biodynamic. | 2002 Joins the SIVCBD. | 2018 Still with SIVCBD
Winemaking | This is traditional in the best sense, with hand picking, fermentation in small cement vats after a short cold maceration, pressing in a manually operated vertical wooden basket press and ageing in barrels for a proportion of the blend. Some reserve wines are also kept back, in large oval-shaped oak foudres, allowing the tannins to soften so that these lots can be added to the main blend in small proportions as a seasoning.
Les Demoiselles de Falfas | A bottling from younger vines for early drinking. Bottled in spring following harvest.
Côtes de Bourg AOC, Château Falfas | IIn Biodynamic Wines (2003, Mitchell Beazley) I wrote that “the main Château Falfas red wine produced under the Côtes de Bourg AC shows consistently ripe, textured fruit (juniper, blackberry), that appealing touch of earthiness basic clarets seem to have lost in the industrialised era, and is refreshing to consume in its youth but even more rewarding in the best vintages with at least 6 years bottle age. Château Falfas is one of the those Bordeaux wines described as a “good everyday claret” fully deserving of the term.” ‘Needs 4 to 5 years to soften, best in warm years,’ (Oz Clarke, 2015, p115). | 1989 Superb. | 1990 Good vintage. | 1993 Lighter Loire-like style. | 1994 Lighter Loire style. | 1995 More depth than 1994. | 1996 More depth than 1995. | 1997 Attractive clean fruit, typical of the vintage. | 1999 I called the 1999 ‘consistently ripe and textured’ in ‘Monty Waldin’s Top 20 Organic Wines’, Decanter (March 2002). Light, crisp, brambly red and black fruit, Bordeaux-light, not green, just crisp, slightly earthy when tasted in Burghley Road with Claire Payne on Saturday evening 13th December 2003. “Merlot with lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Matured in a mix of new oak and one-year-old casks from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Capable of being kept for a decade if desired. £9.55,’ from Adnams Organic & Biodynamic Wines Offer May 2003. | 2000 Attractive cherry fruit and mint, decent level of tannin, good weight, subtle use of oak when tasted at the Wine magazine biodynamic tasting, 23rd April 2003. | 2004 Crisp and ripe albeit with some herby Bordeaux character, but a nice bright colour at the Swan Hotel for an Adnams lunch at which I was speaking on Saturday 30 November 2008. Had a better, rich, riper bottle with John Atkinson and Mark Dorber later that evening at Mark’s pub The Anchor, Walberswick, but John said the wine tasted four-square, which was true, which I then said made it a good example of its rather four-square terroir (bit heavy and low lying).
Côtes de Bourg AOC, Château Falfas, Le Chevalier | From the oldest vines. Introduced in 1990. Ages upto 18 months in smaller oak barrels. These are used for upto five years, with a portion being replaced each year. The wine is made from the oldest Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Needs opening and decanting a day before you drink it. Vegan suitable. In Biodynamic Wines (2003, Mitchell Beazley) I wrote the Château Falfas Le Chevalier’ bottling [which was ] from the oldest Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines is aged in new French oak, and is a fairly substantial bold red for drinking within 5-10 years of the vintage. | 2000 Immediate and bold ripe fruit with subtly overlaid new oak, Spanish softness, good length and texture when tasted at the Wine magazine biodynamic tasting, 23rd April 2003.
F-33710 Bayon (Gironde), France
Tel+33 (0)184.108.40.206.41 | www.chateaufalfas.fr
Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015).
Visit by Monty with Richard Kershaw in 1996. Visit by Monty while filming, 9th October 1997.
‘Phone call with Véronique Cochran on Tuesday afternoon 27th January 2004.
Monty Waldin, Profile of Château Falfas for The Ecologist (UK), May 2005.