Talking Biodynamics with Nicolas Joly
Gary Vaynerchuk is honored to be joined by Nicolas Joly, a champion of biodynamic farming practices and certifiable wine legend.
Talking Biodynamics with Nicolas Joly
Gary Vaynerchuk: Hello everybody and welcome to Wine Library TV. I am your host Gary Veynerchuk and this, my friends, is the thunder show AKA the internet’s most passionate wine program. And for lack of better word, I am extremely humbled by having, you know with all due respect to Genesis Robinson and Jim Cramer and Randold Gram and all the wonderful guests that I’ve been able to be so fortunate of having.
I am not sure if this is not the grandest of guests because, this is a winery and this is the first time we’ve ever met and I’m in love with his character already. I am fully excited about this episode, Nicolas Joly is a legend and I think this is going to be one of the more interesting episodes of Wine Library TV. Anytime we could talk about Savennierrs, Loire Valley. Anytime we could talk about biodynamics with a gentleman of this caliber. I’m going to cut off, shut up, which is a rarity on this show, well I’m going to try, which I’m not going accomplish. You could see decanting, you could see copper colored white wines, guys, this is going to be an education and you don’t even have to pay for it. Nicolas, thank you so much for being here.
Nicolas Joly: Thank you very much.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Thank you so much. Why don’t you tell all the Vayniacs out there the tens of thousands of people that are watching this episode, why I’m so excited about having you here.
Nicolas Joly: Ah! Who knows? [Laughs]
Gary Vaynerchuk: I want you tell them about your—
Nicolas Joly: Well, I’ll tell you what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting since not more than 20 years, 25 probably for true wines. Now what does it mean. This is a key question which leads to the understanding of what is biodynamic or what is at least organic.
Basically, you have to understand when you drink a wine, that vine is catching with its leaves the climate, it’s catching with its roots the soil, and these originalities finally the base of controlling. So all the taste you had in these bottles which you like or dislike, but all these tastes are based on what nature can achieve with subtleties.
Then came what we call modern faming and finally if you make it short, modern farming was killings of soil with killers and poisoning of saps or sappies, as the only way for catching the climate. So that organic which permuted the catch of climate and the sappies poison is systemic to all of these treatments. So basically, you came up with a crop big but to cut these—these places where the vine grows—
Gary Vaynerchuk: Lost
Nicolas Joly: Were lost or strongly weakened.
Gary Vaynerchuk: When did modern farming in the wine world start happening in your opinion?
Nicolas Joly: You could say basically at the beginning of the 70s. So, if you buy many French wines of the 60s, you will have some sort of emotion. Emotion is the word.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I like emotion.
Nicolas Joly: Yes [Laughs]
Gary Vaynerchuk: I’m a big fun of emotion.
Nicolas Joly: Who doesn’t? That’s a problem. Many of these perfect wines which are on the market today don’t create emotions because the taste is mainly achieved in the cellar by a wine maker.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Now, I’m sorry to jump in—there are 600 plus episode you’ve heard me say that at least 90 dozen times, it’s made in the vineyard and it comes from the land, and the Science projects that go on within the wine making rooms, the dungeons as I call them, they become soulless.
Nicolas Joly: Yes that’s it, that’s exactly—you see in the group we made, what I’m shooting for is finding personalities. Now you have a guy who can talk slang, yes I’ve seen today. You have a guide who could be very sophisticated with say things in the soft way, fabulous—but, the thing is that if you have well educated person beside you at dinner and that guy have nothing to tell, you get terribly bored and this is the feeling I have with many wines I’m sorry to tell. So emotion, let’s see what nature can achieve.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Now, in the Loire Valley, did the modern wine making come later since it’s a little bit—
Nicolas Joly: It’s probably in the 80s and well, you know, for Bordeaux I would say mid 70s.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Chenin Blanc
Nicolas Joly: Yeah I am in Chenin Blanc I mean I’m asking a lot—I’m on a very old place you know which was planted in the 1130 so.
Gary Vaynerchuk: 1130?
Nicolas Joly: Yeah.
Gary Vaynerchuk: That’s a couple of minutes ago.
Nicolas Joly: [Laughs] but this—
Gary Vaynerchuk: When did you—this is something I don’t know a couple more minutes because this is just you know glad to have you here. How did you get into wine? I mean your philosophy, I know about the –
Nicolas Joly: The faith. I’m probably like you. Faith is the key.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Well, my dad took me by the neck and brought me in. That was liquor and beer, so I got to stumble on wine.
Nicolas Joly: But, that was your faith too, your destiny too.
Gary Vaynerchuk: No question.
Nicolas Joly: And faith you see –
Gary Vaynerchuk: So how did that happen?
Nicolas Joly: Well, I was working in banking 30 years ago at Morgan County actually; I drop it because I see it’s interesting but it’s not my life. I was deeply involved with nature with shooting, fishing and observing nature.
Gary Vaynerchuk: You’re a hunter?
Nicolas Joly: I was, I stopped long time ago.
Gary Vaynerchuk: You felt bad about it.
Nicolas Joly: Not I feel bad about it, and I think it’s important because when I started—when I came back home on this vineyard, I started with modern farming.
Gary Vaynerchuk: When you said you came back home, is this vineyard had been in your family.
Nicolas Joly: Yes, it was in the family.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And they were always making wine?
Nicolas Joly: They were making wine, yes.
Gary Vaynerchuk: But, they were selling it off, the juice.
Nicolas Joly: No, no my mother took care of it, you know, that was at 277.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And what was the name of the wine.
Nicolas Joly: It’s called the same.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Really.
Nicolas Joly: But you see, the point is at—when I started modern farming, I saw the pathogen is moving away, the soil changing its color, insects were not there, and suddenly I had this feeling that that farming had been breaking the music, because the music was broken. And then someone gave me—
Gary Vaynerchuk: You pressed the pause button.
Nicolas Joly: Yeah. And then someone gave me a book on Biodynamic. I said what do I—you know, I was a countryman, they offered me where people from town trying to return to farming—it was not my style. So, he came back to me several time and I started with this and obviously now, it’s my life because what does it mean—
Gary Vaynerchuk: When did you start biodynamic farming?
Nicolas Joly: It was ’80. In 1980, we were very few, you see I thought my place is where—it has a long history, much before a time where vines where planted into 12 century. So I thought I need something special here.
Gary Vaynerchuk: How big is the—
Nicolas Joly: Small, I have 15 hectares which is what 35 or 40 acres. But I wanted some really well done. So, I have a landscape. It has strong slopes, I have a river right beside it, I could plant many fields which now we’ve seen as vineyards as controlling and I don’t do it, so people could say it’s not properly managed but, I’m saying okay we have to fight for the future. If you want nature—
Gary Vaynerchuk: You can be half-pregnant.
Nicolas Joly: That’s it. And therefore a very old vines, you know people—
Gary Vaynerchuk: How old?
Nicolas Joly: From 40 to 70 years old, we would say, “Come on, get rid of that. Improve your yields, replant it,” but you can’t. You know, old vines are wisdom, you have roots which are 20 metered depths.
Gary Vaynerchuk: You can’t replicate that?
Nicolas Joly: No. You don’t. You will lose too much.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And the wine that you get from there is a totally different scene.
Nicolas Joly: Completely.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Then even your neighbors.
Nicolas Joly: Oh yes completely and you see everybody plant clones, but a clone, let’s assume we have 15 guys here, these 15 have no sense, and has no point to talk. You know what they are going to tell, you see. So for me, it was a necessity to have only massive selection. So we take out the wood, we give it for grafting to someone and have maybe 200 or 300 different cocktails of vines which a clone cannot achieve.
So repopulation, so you return to all these principles. These is organic, this is not yet biodynamic which can permeate to the vine to talk. You want about them to talk, you want to say about it
Gary Vaynerchuk: When did you start paying attention to the moon and to the animals and to all that at 80.
Nicolas Joly: No it comes slowly, because you see now, I tell you the story but, that story has been built up and understood in my mind over the last 20 years. This is why I wrote to the book actually because I want it to share—
Gary Vaynerchuk: Let’s talk about that.
Nicolas Joly: Well, I want people to take a short cut, you know. I want people, wine growers and the consumer, to avoid mistakes which have been too heavily made. And step by step, you know, I will—why do I have a horse?—Now, I could even tell you that if—
Gary Vaynerchuk: Maybe you might like riding a horse.
Nicolas Joly: Yes, but, which I have no time to do that anymore. I was into resting, but you see, different animals on an estate will bring different insects. And all these contributed to the complexity of the life of the soil and all these permeate to the roots because without microorganism, the soil cannot feed itself, it cannot feed itself from the soil. So you reach complexity but only it’s like acoustic.
You have a good singer and bad acoustic, it doesn’t come out well. And by tuning your estate to several principles which permit nature to fully express itself, you obtain a wine which has deepness. What has been done in the last 30 years, it’s “Come on. We have no time. We have to do whatever we wish. We have high yields and we bring cosmetic into the cellar.”
Gary Vaynerchuk: That’s right.
Nicolas Joly: And cosmetic into the cellar makes a good wine—it’s outsold. Yes that’s it. But I mean you see now, in new generation, just coming to the—real life is there, you know, they have these feelings that they need to find something else. They understand that modern society have reached it’s limits, something new have to come and all of these is part of this discovering something new. So, I think things have their way.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Oh clearly, there is enormous momentum. We’ll just take, after this episode airs today, the next series of episodes—this is a two-part episode with a biodynamic California producer that we taste last week because I’m away this week. So there’s clearly momentum. I mean what you’ve been working for is clearly on its way. I’m sure you seal—I’m sure you taste it. I mean taste it in the air, meaning it’s coming.
Nicolas Joly: It has to come and it is coming and the greatest denture it is a market, you see also people, most of the guys have this. The same way, I’m not doing that for the market and we are doing this to be themselves.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And now here comes the market.
Nicolas Joly: And now which is a bit of a danger.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Sureness. It’s better than the alternative.
Nicolas Joly: Certainly. If you have one guy starting this, just because it’s a market, when he has oppression from disease, disease that has never before, this needs to be understood—
Gary Vaynerchuk: That’s pretty propelled.
Nicolas Joly: When he face this. “Okay, I’m going to loose my crop, I’m going to use chemical.” And so the guy is gone. So all this new comers, if they come for the sake of economics.
Gary Vaynerchuk: If they don’t have the chaps, they don’t have chaps, if it’s not their passion, they’re going to leave it. It’s our flavor of the month.
Nicolas Joly: Absolutely.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Let’s talk about the first wine that we have here. It tells a little bit about this.
Nicolas Joly: Close likely 2006.
Gary Vaynerchuk: It was 2006, Chenin Blanc and what kind of suggested retail is on this. Do we know suggestive retail price.
Matt: It’s around $28.00
Gary Vaynerchuk: $28.00 US retail suggested, let’s pour a little bit, it tells a little bit about this. What kind of production.
Nicolas Joly: Oh very tiny. The years are about 2500 liter by hectares.
Gary Vaynerchuk: This is Savennierr, let’s just put it right there, so that everybody sees that. And so how much production I’m sorry.
Nicolas Joly: 2500 liter by acre by hectare—less than 3000 liter by hectare which if you convert it—no you have weight, but it’s very tiny and four harvest, you never harvest once, you go four times to the vines to harvest because as you have massive selections, it behave in a different way. So you have some early grapes with the earlier and we also with the later. And I am shooting for vitristis which is a sort of—
Gary Vaynerchuk: A disease?
Nicolas Joly: No, people think it’s a disease but it can be a disease but it’s also good if it’s well done and you see—
Gary Vaynerchuk: So it’s that why we’re seeing—to everybody who’s watching and wondering, “Why in the heck, we have this yellow, almost copper-like color?” that’s what you’re going for.
Nicolas Joly: Be good, it’s almost harvested like a salted fruit?
Gary Vaynerchuk: When do you harvest it? In November?
Nicolas Joly: No, no we harvest it mainly in October between the end of September the beginning of November and you see the grape starts to shrink so if you have concentration on it, but—
Gary Vaynerchuk: I’m sorry to cut you off, most people don’t want you know grab it after it starts shrinking because that means less production.
Nicolas Joly: That is much less production, but wine isn’t wine, you can’t cheat with wine for Christ sake. You have to let the vine to do its best and you have to harvest when the work is achieved. If you got the grape before it does shrunk, it’s like if you take away the painting from a painter before the painting is finished, you see. So all this has to come, because the consumer is not anymore in that.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Yeah, the consumers are more educated than—
Nicolas Joly: Absolutely, and you know now, they are not less conventional than before.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Very much so. Do you feel that—so if you were to recap how you work this, do you feel like you were just there to pay attention and guide more so than make, would you even consider yourself a winemaker or would you consider it yourself more of a wine guider.
Nicolas Joly: I’ll show business card, this is a card I have written, Nature Assistant and not wine maker.
Gary Vaynerchuk: This is pretty stuff that I figured.
Nicolas Joly: That’s exactly what you said.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Nature Assistant and not wine maker.
Nicolas Joly: If you are wine maker—
Gary Vaynerchuk: Matt, if you can get in here this is pretty wild, right there. I don’t know if you can get it.
Nicolas Joly: If you are winemaker—
Gary Vaynerchuk: But it’s just so obvious. I mean, as you talk it was just obvious for me.
Nicolas Joly: If you are forced to be a winemaker it means that you have not understood the subtleties of nature. Nature is a much better wine maker than a human being.
Gary Vaynerchuk: That is a teacher, you want to go on a teacher business? Nature is better than any human being. I mean that’s really true.
Nicolas Joly: That’s really true. Look if you take a vine now you have tiny buds, come back six months later you have branches, you have leaves you have grapes, that seven tons by hectare. Now, 94% of this for synthesis, only six is a soil which means that something intangible has become tangible, no matter energies has become matter.
When you understand that the macrocodes, it becomes a microcodes, you have just let the vine to that job which no one else can do. You know, if I ask you to come to that end to the matter, you can do it, and I can do it.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I got some super powers in this wristband. I understand and you’re right. Let me ask you a question that I’m curios about and we should probably give this a snippy sniff, other wise this will turn into the first three part episode of Wine Library TV. Aromatically, this is extremely interesting on the nose. Are you a kind of aromatic guy? I’m a very big aromatic guy. I notice—you didn’t romanced, you didn’t smell it that much, you just went right into it.
Nicolas Joly I know it.
Gary Vaynerchuk: He know it too well, that’s a very valid point, that’s a very valid point. But in general, if you don’t know—
Nicolas Joly: I’m like better to smell often. I’m like better at smell than the taste.
Gary Vaynerchuk: That happens all the time I think for many people, are you more interested in the smell than a taste. Yeah, me too.
Nicolas Joly: Yes because the smell is less coating to matter, you see the smell is more intangible and all what is behind matter is, you find this as a basic for understanding biodynamic, because when you say to people I work in biodynamic with sweet grapes by hectare of certain preparation, they don’t know how to understand it.
Now if you explain to people that matter is just a mass of atoms moving permanently at the fast speed, they understand that vibration, you know is finely just made of non-matter but its just laws of the earth—earth’s gravitation and gravitation catch non-matter and makes matter out of it just by more density. So I judge the wine from its expression, from the sphere which is around it and it ends up into a taste but this is the end step, the last step.
Nicolas Joly: Tell me about the Chenin Grape are you – is it your favorite grape in the world or—
Nicolas Joly: Fabulous grape. Because you see—
Gary Vaynerchuk: I told you Reisling, with the nerdies.
Nicolas Joly: Reisling can achieve a lot of beauty, a Chenin is like a difficult child, if you handle well a difficult child—
Gary Vaynerchuk: Matt, he is awful, okay.
Nicolas Joly: He doesn’t look bad, though. If you handle well a difficult child it’s a genius. If you handle poorly a difficult child, it’s a disaster, Chenin is that. Chenin is a long cycle and Chenin cannot support mistakes. So modern farming to Chenin is a complete drama. Modern farming to Savennierr is a lesser problem.
Gary Vaynerchuk: What do you say about the Chenin that we’re seeing in South Africa, it’s modern?
Nicolas Joly: Yes.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And I’ve got to be honest with you. I think it’s a very good, it think it serves a very good niche in the US market.
Nicolas Joly: It is true I tell you.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I mean its obviously not this.
Nicolas Joly: No, no, no I agree.
Gary Vaynerchuk: It’s a very interesting wine and under $10.00.
Nicolas Joly: Yes, but, I tell you why Chenin doesn’t need a heart tweeze. So the climate of South Africa is close to the sea is a very good feed for Chenin. I remember South African coming to me and the greatest mistake for Chenin is the big yield. Big yields doesn’t feature that.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I mean but there’s not a lot—I mean almost everybody’s mistake is big yield.
Nicolas Joly: Yes.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I mean, right. I’m there’s clearly—
Nicolas Joly: —economics, but the world is changing.
Gary Vaynerchuk: No question. But what’s going to happen now, see I’m worried. I agree with you. Over the last 36 months, there’s been an amazing movement. I think people are getting more into their vineyards, I can more positive things will happen, sustainable, organic, biodynamic, people realize you got to take care of your land, that’s your source. The communist is getting tougher. It’s clearly getting tougher for wines, you know obviously you have amazing brand reputation.
You’ve got a lot of brand equity. You’ve been in the game there’s a lot of people at the stores, I guess we’re going to buy what we can get. For somebody new or fairly new, they may have passion, but without the brand equity, without the scary factor that scores have such an impact in our business sublime, with the economy of this, it’s difficult for somebody coming out of nowhere to produce a $37.00 Chenin out of the Loire Valley, no brand actually, it’s a challenge and I’m worried that they’re not going to take that risk to make it better there going to make more wine, less expensive just to do what they have to for the economics, enduring a global downturn.
Nicolas Joly: Two things. First thing, it’s a great thing we have to mention to everyone, is the definition—big is beautiful belong to the past for Christ sake. Big is not anymore beautiful, small is beautiful, that’s the first thing.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I agree.
Nicolas Joly: So selling limited number of buttons, not available doing all the year. The second thing, you have many small wine growers which are really so fuzzy. This is why I was making this group to do well. When you see this guys being lost somewhere, they are killed. If you put 100 of them together, we have now 180 members and 14 countries.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Why don’t you tell them what members you are referring to.
Nicolas Joly: It’s a group of school region in Le Vieux Clos in France. And the idea is just to take people well certified because certification is a complete necessity for the consumer. Legal necessity. Certified on the biodynamic and certified on organic and then it goes with testing committee and we take only one serve because its not because wine is organic or biodynamic entity.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Quality?
Nicolas Joly: Yes we need this song.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And you might not like the person. Is that kind of pretty illegal?
Nicolas Joly: Yes but, you see I will not—
Gary Vaynerchuk: You don’t like most people
Nicolas Joly: Who knows, who knows but, I tell you I’m not going to eliminate from the group, guys that I don’t like, I’m going to eliminate a guy whereas the wine have no song. Maybe you dislike the song, but this day, the song I think can be an—
Gary Vaynerchuk: So if you don’t like hip-hop like rap, but you realize it as a song, you’ll take them in.
Nicolas Joly: Well, maybe not—
Gary Vaynerchuk: Let’s open this wine really quick, I’m going to jump around a little bit. This has enormous amounts of dried apricot on the palate like its just sings to me.
Nicolas Joly: Yeah, I love it but I don’t know how to tell.
Gary Vaynerchuk: And there’s also almost a copper component like a penny. I think it is almost a little bit of a penny, a lot of a minerality as well.
Nicolas Joly: That way your say in French Pierra Fusci, you know that stones, that stone that you are using old guns you know which should make a spark. This is the definition. And you see every year, my wines are different.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I know that.
Nicolas Joly: Well, this is the part.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I thought you were a cheater when I first got involved.
Nicolas Joly: No.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I mean, they really do and that goes back to you just treating it as art every year.
Nicolas Joly: I am capable to do that myself.
Gary Vaynerchuk: You’re a nature assistant.
Nicolas Joly: Yes that’s it. Nature can only do that, not you and this is a part of having each vintage so different, you see.
Gary Vaynerchuk: The other thing that I find extremely fascinating, and not a lot of people don’t realize, is how well white wine can age.
Nicolas Joly: Yes.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Has that been a possible of yours over the last 30 years, I mean its starting to happen in the last you know five to seven years but, I can assume in 1980, in 1985 people were just not open to the fact of at least definitely not the US market, that white wine can last more than a year.
Nicolas Joly: It’s a slow process of understanding and with it you could tell drink a white wine at the same temperature than the red wine. This idea that the white wine should be gold is absurd.
Gary Vaynerchuk: I knew I was going to like this. I have been pushing and screaming on this show for three years that white wine should be at room temperature.
Nicolas Joly: Absolutely no question.
Gary Vaynerchuk: This is it, end of show. But you know what I’m thrilled, I do not—I would have probably ask you because I’ve asking a lot of people that has been an extreme passionate mine.
Nicolas Joly: Yes I mean look this wine is now maybe 18 degree to express fully. If it was 14 degree, it would loose 20%.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Absolutely. It’s hiding the flavor.
Nicolas Joly: Oh it seems a habit, but Savennierr, one way to understand that well, fortunately.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Yes they do.
Talking Biodynamics with Nicolas Joly
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