How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
Walking the thin line between erasing myself as much as possible from the process, being the least intrusive as possible while trying to conquer nature without violating it.
What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?
All the great French domains, especially the ones working organically or biodynamic always were models for me. In the Loire Valley I learned a lot from people like the Foucault brothers (Clos Rougeard) in Saumur-Champigny, Marc Angeli (Ferme de la Sansonniere) or Nicolas Joly (Coulee de Serrant) in Savennières about the farming and the soil diversity of my vineyards.
How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?
I am a classic example of an Old World wine “vigneron,” this French word that does not have a direct translation in English but which means being a farmer AND a winemaker at the same time. Therefore I grow and harvest my own fruits and this part of my work is essential to me. I am everyday in my vineyards with my team, from the pruning to the harvesting season. It is so important to see the vine evolving, suffering and expressing itself throughout the different seasons.
I have always been impressed by the breathtaking slopes of Mosel, Rhône Valley or the Beaujolais, but on a more personal level I love a parcel that was planted 40 years ago by my grandfather: no dramatic slope although it is overlooking the appellation but I like going there to watch the sunset and receive some special vibes that make me feel like I am part of my family history.
How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?
I had the same evolution as any average person: At first I liked big, rich, opulent bottles. Today I favour wines with finesse, elegance, acidity, saltiness and find demonstrative wines boring. Naturally, I have been trying to produce wines with tension and finesse.
What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?
I have always loved Japanese cuisine and right now I like to pair it with my Cab Franc Rosé. On the red side, and to stay on Asian food pairing, Peking duck and Bourgueil is a nice bridge to build between two culinary worlds.
What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?
Actually quite a lot for my artisan standards: We will be harvesting for the first time this year a white Rouilleres bottling made from Chenin Blanc that I planted five years ago right next to my single vineyard of Cab Franc. Also, in few weeks we will bottle our top cuvée “Eclipse” which is made of our oldest Cab Franc (over 50 years old) and only produced in great vintages (2005 was the last vintage).
Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?
The reality is that many wines today are tailored to win awards, accolades and great scores and as a result tend to be uniform: big, rich, high alcohol, in your nose vanilla notes... But most of the time I don’t enjoy drinking them. This “trend” actually pushes me to go even further in the search of minerality in my wines.
What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?
Anything! French, non-French, natural wines with low sulphites, Syrah wherever it is coming from... I usually do not drink my own wine during lunch or dinner as I have all day opportunities to taste them and therefore I really try as much as possible to discover new producers or varietal when I am dining.
Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?
Not really. But I do have some great Bordeaux and Rhône: Latour, Fieuzal, Pape Clément, Pichon Comtesse, Côte Rôtie from Cuilleron, Jamet and Cornas from Clape.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?
There are many: Make wines that are ethically correct and educate customers about terroir-driven wines. A great challenge is for producers all around the world not to fall into mass-production, which often leads to pollution. I want to leave to my children a vineyard which is clean from pollutants and I hope we can all do the same globally and leave a planet free of any pollutants for future generations. If on top of that we can also explain that wine, when drunk moderately, is good for health we would have done a nice job!