After founding the domaine in 1993, which he named after his grandfather, Didier Barral decided fairly quickly that biodynamic practices were the best choice for farming his vineyards. Deep in the heart of the Languedoc, in the Faugères appellation just outside the hamlet of Lenthéric, Domaine Léon Barral is a beacon of revolutionary winegrowing. Didier farms thirty hectares of vineyards, and this is no small feat. Incorporating biodynamic practices into a vineyard means working the soil rigorously, and with so much land to farm, it is fortunate that he has so much help. His workers of choice? A team of twenty cows, horses, and pigs that graze the cover crops in and around the vineyards. The simple act of grazing cultivates healthy microbiotic activity in the soil, bringing mushrooms, ants, ladybugs, earthworms, and other essential life forms, which add important nutrients while aerating the soil. This is the concept of sustainability at its finest, where the ecosystem creates interdependence between the animals and the vineyards.
The grapes benefit the most from this environment, which ultimately translates to tremendously powerful, complex, and age-worthy wines. Most of Didier’s vines get full southern sun exposure. In this Mediterranean climate where summer heat waves and drought are constant during the growing season, pruning in the gobelet style shelters the grapes from the blistering sun. Most of his vines are very old, but vary up to ninety years of age, keeping yields naturally low. Once in the cellar, Didier’s harvest is cared for with the same zeal, although he would consider the wine all but finished once it leaves the vineyard. This level of artisanry was once nearly extinct had it not been for Didier and the profound influence he is having over other viticulteurs who now see how his work ethic and ideology translates to results.