Véronique Drouhin Interview, 23rd January,2012.

Véeonique is head winemaker at the Drouhin winery in Burgundy, the great granddaughter of the founder.

What would be a typical ‘day in the life of? I usually come into the office by around 8am and by 11 am I go to the winery to taste the wine – every day we have wines to taste. All are under the process of maturation so we have to decide what needs to be done next – do we bottle the wine or leave it be? In the afternoon I come back to the office or see customers wanting to see the cellars.

You’re a well established brand but the market is pretty crowded. How do you keep ahead of the competition? It is achallenge. In our case our philosophy is simply to produce very high-end quality wine. There’s no compromise on anything, the quality always comes first. Yes, sometimes it’s hard but our name has been going for a long time and it’s a name people trust

Were you expected to join the family business, or was italways your passion? It was not expected but when I discovered I had a real passion for the wine making process. When I was that age my father hired a female wine maker and at that time, back in the 1970s, there were very few women taking care of vineyards. It was, for me, a discovery. I thought: ‘Oh, that’s something I could do, I like it very much!’ So I pursued my studies in wine making and it all worked out perfectly.

Why are there so few female wine makers?

That’s a good question. I think it’s a very demanding job if you have a family. For me it has been very nice for my husband and my children to let me take so much time out of then: life for wine. But then it was just not common for women. In Burgundy certainly they were not so welcome in wineries, only in the vineyards.

Your great-grandfather set up the business in 1880 at just 22 years old. Now, the family owns and manages 200acres. How many staff are employed in the company? We have 80 employees. The name is well known but the company is not that big. We’re lucky to have a beautiful estate and we still have the same partners and suppliers we’ve had for years. The idea is not to become too big a company, and to remain trustworthy.

Your father was one of the first in Burgundy to introduce ‘culture raisonnee’ – this means organic, right? Yes, and it’s a healthy way of growing fruit – you use products you find in nature, such as herbs and natural fertilisers like manure. It is about finding natural solutions to natural problems.

What do you remember most about vinifying the first vintage in Oregon? It was very challenging because we didn’t make one in the winery – it was in a place that had no water or electricity. But 25 years on, we’ve built a lovely four-level winery. We still work with a traditional way of wine making. Technology shouldn’t be overused, only when there’s a problem.

Are you a pinot noir or a chardonnay woman yourself? It depends on the mood, the weather. During the summer I’m more into the Chardonnay but in winter a pinot noir usually finds its way around the fireplace.

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