The climb to the hilltop village of Bogy is a slow zig zag on a one-lane road through a tunnel of trees and lush vegetation. As you reach the clearing you arrive at La Ferme des Sept Lunes, a polycultural farm in the appellation of Saint Joseph between Vienne and Valence. Founded in 1984 by current proprietor Jean Delobre’s grandfather, the estate is covered in vines, orchards and fields of grain. Over the years, acre by acre, the estate was converted to organic farming, and since 1997 Jean has been biodynamically cultivating seven hectares of Syrah, Roussane, Marsanne, Gamay and Viognier. La Ferme des Sept Lunes is comprised of a patchwork of vineyards ranging in vine age and composition, all on a bedrock of granite. The terraced Saint Joseph vineyards below the converted barn-winery are majestic in their biodiversity. Wild flowers and grasses grow in and around the vines, and the occasional iris adds a vibrant pop of color. In Jean’s words, “a vineyard is a big garden” and he is clearly a devoted caretaker with a very green thumb.
In the early years, the family sold fruit to the local co-op. Over time, Jean became disenchanted, recognizing that a personal vision was taking shape and would not be fulfilled by his current model. After founding a “bio” (organic) group at the cooperative, Jean was inspired to begin producing his own wines where he could control quality at every stage. His first estate bottled wine was from 2001 and he has been refining his unhurried yet sure-handed approach ever since. Jean’s commitment to purity carries through to the cellar where he produces a captivating range of wines under the Saint Joseph and Vin de Pays appellations. Each parcel is vinified separately to capture the individual characteristics of each terroir, even if the wine will eventually be blended. The Syrah macerates for about 20 days in open concrete tanks before aging in demi-muids, none of which are new. For Saint Joseph Blanc, fermentation takes place in stainless steel fermenters and aging is also in neutral demi-muids.
In the vineyards, there is a concerted effort to create a harmonious environment for the vineyards to thrive naturally and with a nod toward polyculture (as clearly seen in the photos). All grapes are harvested by hand, with careful sorting to remove bunches that do not make the cut. The wines are then fermented with their natural yeasts and rarely see sulfur during vinification or bottling, and only in small amounts. Jean’s wines (and life-changing apricot juice!) have an energy, freshness, and depth of flavor that have earned the farm a cult following.
In 2017, Jean entered into a partnership with colleague Jacques Maurice who had also been involved at the local cooperative. Since 1997, Jacques has been organically farming apricots, pears, 3.5 hectares of Saint Joseph Rouge and Blanc, and 1.5 hectares of Vins de Pays Viognier and Roussanne. Like Jean, his stringent commitment to natural farming and transparent winemaking forced him to seek independence from the co-op. Their shared philosophies led to a collaboration that combines years of experience, old vines, and an unwavering desire to understand and honor Mother Nature’s gifts.