Inner Workings of a Cult Winery in Pomerol
an interview with Marielle Cazaux, winemaker for La Conseillante
by Marla Norman
Is the job of winemaker more difficult for a woman, because of the added pressures to succeed, or is it actually easier to open doors?
I never really asked myself that question. However, I do know that when I first started, it was tough for women and the ones in the business had to work harder, longer hours and show more competency to prove they belonged. I did notice that once that approval test had been completed with satisfaction, then it was easier to find one’s place. In relation to 10 years ago, I believe that the doors to management are now as open to women as they are to men.
For young people trying to get into this field, is there a well established path or is it a struggle to try to find a way ?
I recommend a school for Agronomy Engineers or a BTS (a certification that requires two years of study and an exam) and an oenology diploma. Afterwards, it is all about work, work, work. Commit yourself fully. Don’t worry about how many hours you have to work and your efforts will pay off.
Have you already started to make some changes at La Conseillante or are you following a predetermined path?
As soon as you are put in charge of a program, you need to appropriate some tasks, some responsabilities. I have made a few changes in methodology and am committed to test some new ideas. That being said, La Conseillante has an incredible record. The property has been in very professional hands for many years and it doesn’t take much to make a well-oiled machine run extremely well.
When I visit La Conseillante, I’m impressed by how new things seem to be, whether the building or the equipment. Are there any more plans for growth and improvement in that respect?
We did replace the vat room in 2012, but if you notice other wineries around us, such as L’Évangile, Pétrus, Petit-Village, Clinet, Beauregard, Le Pin, everyone has been busy! We still have to work on a new temperature system for the barrel room and install a program to regulate the humidity. These are must jobs, since the thick walls that make up the cellar rooms are no longer sufficient to handle our summers which are becoming increasingly warmer.
Other than a superior terroir that you share with the likes of Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan and other top Pomerol wineries, what makes the difference for La Conseillante?
Olivier de Serres (French soil scientist) describes terroir as the interaction between soil, climate and man. In Pomerol, climate and soil make up 90% of the greatness of the wines. The rest is all about how much care you give to your property. Our entire family and team tend to their land like diamonds in a jewelry box. The results are obvious.
Would you ever consider creating a negociant label wine?
No. The Nicolas Family (owners of La Conseillante) are not interested in anything like that.
What is your favorite vintage for La Conseillante?
That’s a difficult question, since I haven’t been here so very long. But my favorite wine may be the 2005. It has a very interesting level of maturity, delicate aromas and an amazing mouthfeel. I also tasted the 1985 vintage in large format, and I believe it may belong to the group of mythical wines produced at this estate.
How did Summer 2015 turn out for you? Now that you are in the malolactic fermentation process, can you start comparing this vintage with others, or is it just too early?
2015 was a dream for all of us in the business. Rain came in when we needed it. Veraison for the Merlot happened in 48 hours. September and October weather was very pleasant and that allowed us to harvest as we pleased. I don’t care to compare vintages, as all of them seem to be different from each other, but one thing is for sure, this vintage will be in the same league as 2009 and 2010!