We visited Jack Ma’s vineyard, and… you’ve never seen anything like it!

Mercredi 09 décembre 2020 par Vitisphere

 Jack Ma, Bordeaux vineyard philanthropist or a businessman ahead of the curve?
Jack Ma, Bordeaux vineyard philanthropist or a businessman ahead of the curve? - crédit photo : Château de Sours / Hubert de Castelbajac

Over 200 hectares, everything is ploughed, cared for and clean”, claims Tom Vercammen, managing director of Château Sours. He admits that “there is still a lot left to do, but those who visit us don't realise how much has already been achieved” since the property was bought in 2015 by Jack Ma, founder of China’s leading e-commerce platform Alibaba. The figures speak for themselves: 80 hectares of vines have been undergoing restructuring since 2018, new trellising was introduced in 2019, drainage in 2020 and building work has started to equip the property with new cellars by 2022. The building work will reportedly amount to €20 million, out of an overall budget of €30 million.

Like a perfectly manicured garden, the property is home to thousands of roses, hydrangeas and trees (some of them in orchards), as well as fallow land between vineyard plots (along with woodland). Château de Sours has become a farmyard in its own right with 80 hens, 55 Mangalica pigs, 18 beehives and 15 highland cows as well as goats, pheasants, donkeys and horses. “Before 2015, we used to grow a single crop, now we do mixed farming,” sums up technical director Clarisse Naulet, who has worked at the property since 2012 and witnessed a phasing out of weed killers and reduction in inputs. The aim is to forego the use of copper by 2022.

The scale of the resources poured into the property and its ambitions beg the question: why invest in so much infrastructure in Saint-Quentin-de-Baron, a village in Entre-deux-Mers? Jack Ma “saw the acreage and with it lots of possibilities. He is a visionary who sets great store by nature”, is Vercammen’s answer. He also points out that this is “the only estate to roll out permaculture on this scale. Permaculture is the future”.

Ma is also a visionary who has a seemingly limitless budget and doesn’t even market his wines. With a new winery due to come on-stream in 2022, the first red and white wines will not be released until 2023. They are currently being stored; only the rosés and sparkling wines are commercially available. The wines will not be labelled ‘Château de Sours’, as the estate left the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation to become a 100% non-geographical indication wine, aka Vin de France. More than this, it will use vineyard management techniques that do not comply with appellation specifications, as well as grape varieties that are anything but native. The varieties come from Portugal and Spain, and some of them are disease-resistant vines ultimately able to ward off fungal diseases.

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