Didier Barral represents the thirteenth generation to grow grapes in the tiny hamlet of Lenthéric, within the confines of the Faugères appellation deep in the heart of the Languedoc. Domaine Léon Barral is a beacon of revolutionary winegrowing: shortly after founding the domaine, Didier decided that biodynamic practices were the best choice for farming his thirty hectares of vineyards. Léon Barral has pioneered numerous innovative agronomic techniques with the goal of establishing his vineyards as a self-sustaining ecosystem.
This Renaissance man, naturalist, and biodynamic maven commands tremendous respect among his peers for his visionary approach to topics like soil management, pest control, and drought mitigation in his vineyards.
Incorporating biodynamic practices necessitates enormous investment and an uncompromising work ethic. With so much land to farm, it is fortunate that Didier has so much help. His workers of choice? A team of twenty cows, horses, and pigs that roam the vineyards during winter, grazing the cover crops while adding natural fertilizer to the soil. Without compacting the earth the way a tractor would, the animals effectively cultivate healthy microbial activity, 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 thrives from the symbiotic relationships Didier has fostered amid the vines.
This approach ultimately translates to tremendously powerful, complex, and age-worthy wines inflected with an earthy mineral note from the schist soils of Faugères. 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—some 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 artisanship 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.