16 June, 2021
In the morning I cycle to Anne-Cécile Jadaud in close-by Chançay. We had arranged to meet at 10 a.m. She is a friend of Thomas Puéchavy’s who worked for Anne-Cécile’s partner, Tanguy Perrault, as a stagiaire, an intern, which was mandatory for his studies at the Lycée Agricole et Viticole d’Amboise where he went for a Certificat de Spécialisation Viticulture biologique.
Anne-Cécile makes her own wine under her own name, with Tanguy she produces wine under the name Domaine Perrault-Jadaud. Only later, while on the train back to Berlin, I realize that I’ve already tasted one of their wines, the »Haut les choeurs« pet nat – on 23 February. My notes of that day say: »Fine but brisk bubbles, quince, apple«, I loved it. Outside the cellar I meet Tanguy who’s preparing the tractor for a copper treatment of the vines as rain has been forecasted. Anne-Cécile and me sit down at the kitchen table. I asked for an interview because I wanted to know more about her background, having already agreed, via e-mail, on representing her wines as an agent for the world after Thomas had put me in touch with her, having thought we would be a good match.
Anne-Cécile, what do you like about teaching at the wine school that our mutual friend Thomas attended?
I was very disappointed by my own studies. I studied oenology in Montpellier, and there was no connection between the teachers, who knew everything, and the students, wo knew nothing. It was all very theoretical and not practical at all. After I had my degree I stayed in the area, I had a boyfriend there, and worked in various cellars, amongst them a cave cooperative, a winemaking cooperative, as an œnologue. It was during that time that I learned the most, as a flying winemaker. I met a lot of people and got involved in a lot of discussions about wine. I stayed for eleven years in the south of France. My boyfriend and I then broke up, and I decided to move back home again, to Tours. I didn’t want to go straight back into wine production and saw that the Lycée in Amboise was looking for teachers. They have kept me ever since, since 2008. I began teaching the very young people who had just finished school. I loved it. I hadn’t taught before so I bought a few books about teaching to construct my courses properly. I realized, standing in front of a class, how many stories I had to tell. My work had always been in the cellar, not in the vineyard, so that’s where I took the students – to the school’s own cellar, much more often than the school had planned for originally. I like telling real stories – theory and reality often don’t match, you know. I never say: »That’s it, that’s how you do it.« I always say: »Maybe. Maybe you could do it like that.« For beginners, at the start of the school year, this is difficult to understand, they prefer straightforward answers to problems.
I find it quite confusing, too. And exciting at the same time. There is really no right and wrong when it comes to winemaking, the possibilities are endless.
This is why I find the whole craft so rich! There is never a good or a bad decision, well, there are some good and some bad decisions one can make but usually your decisions ›only‹ make the wine ›different‹. For me, the clou is in microbiology. One day I said to myself: You have to understand what happens when you make wine! So I started teaching about the effects different yeast and bacteria can have using a microscope. I hadn’t learned anything about this at university. I needed to go to Alsace where I had found a consultant working in a laboratory who could teach me. Back then there was not a lot written down in books, they were few in number and difficult to find. Now it’s time to consolidate this kind of information as there are a few people in France, here and there, who have accumulated knowledge…
... including you! I’m surprised that microbiology wasn’t taught in Montpellier during your time there.
Chemistry, only chemistry we learned about. But modern oenology today is still only concerned with chemistry. »If you have a problem, use this and that product, and it will all be fine«, is what they tell you. The reason for the specific problem is never really questioned. Did the yeast play a role? And if so, why? These are the questions you need to ask yourself. I’m very angry when it comes to public oenological science in France. Most of the subvention are spent on improving certain products – products the winemaker can buy and then use in the vineyard, new clones and so on.
I’m sure it’s the same everywhere, unfortunately.
You’re right. Recently, I took part in a webinar. There were oenologists from fourty countries. One of the main subjects was how to clean barrels with plasma to fight Brettanomyces, a ›bad yeast‹. I’m not interested in these questions, I try to understand nature, how nature is, work with it and accept it. You, as the winemaker, are not the only person making the wine. It’s yeast and bacteria as well! When you try to control each and every step in the winemaking process you make a wine that is not bad but definitely lacking personality. In organic winemaking you hand control over to yeast and bacteria and accept it.
Yesterday we tasted the new vintage from Thomas, 2020, straight from the barrels. I think I could still taste that they were his wines but they were quite different compared to the wines from 2019. And that’s the beauty of it, of stepping back and not wanting to interfere too much, right?
So many things can change from year to year. The yeast, the maturity of the grapes, their composition in general… but then also the winemaker changes! Thomas has gained more experience, another year in the vineyard and cellar, so maybe he took different decisions – during the harvest and afterwards. It’s very difficult to tell and, yes, I agree, that’s the beauty of it.
Knowing a few winemakers personally now I’m quite certain that, talking about organic or so-called natural wine only, that you can taste the personality of the winemaker.
Because of my personality and my history I take different decisions than Thomas, my wine will in any case taste differently.
In France, wine is much more part of the culture, compared to Germany. You don’t always make a big fuss about wine, you drink it for lunch, as an apéritif in the late afternoon, it’s always part of a meal. Also, people know more about wine, I’ve found, e.g. they can tell the difference between different cépages. How did your family consume wine? What made you interested in wine?
In France we have two kinds of wines. The first is the wine for everyday life which is not expensive and not very strong in alcohol. My grandfather always mixed his red wine with water – a lot of people at that time did it, just to have the aroma. When I worked at the cave cooperative I had to make wines that would have exactly 11,5 and 12,5%, for the Bag-in-Box. A lot of people bought them. For them the alcohol content was crucial as the wines were meant to be drunk every day. The second wine is the ›beautiful‹ wine, a wine for special moments and occasions. For my dad the special wine meant Bordeaux. And Bourgogne. Maybe a little bit of Loire, too. The first special wines I remember were from Bordeaux, from the appellation Saumur-Champigny, and from the Loire, from Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. Wines from Vouvray, where I am living and making wine today, we rarely had. I learned to like these ›beautiful‹ wines when I was about 16 years old, always in combination with great food. Food is very important when you taste wine. I liked the combination and wanted to find out more.
So you started studying oenology right after your baccalauréat?
No! I first studied veterinary medicine, for a year, and then switched to pharmacy, for two years, which was great because of everything else except university! I didn’t pass my exams and went to see a young career counsellor. I had no idea what to do next. She asked me: »What do you like in life?« I mentioned the cinema but then I didn’t want to become an actress or a screenwriter. »What else do you like?« »Perfume!«, I said. She suggested a school that was teaching how to make perfume, cosmetics and flavours. Flavours! I was even more interested in them, actually! So I enrolled. There I spent a lot of time in the laboratory which wasn’t really for me. But then I was lucky to meet, in Tours, the man who had created the Institut du Goût, an association for taste, Jacques Puisais. I spoke to him. He said that I should study oenology – I could become a winemaker and still work with flavours!
And that’s when you went to Montpellier.
Since when have you been making red wine under your own name?
Since 2018. With Tanguy, as Domaine Perrault-Jadaud, we started in 2009, only producing white wines from the cépage Chenin Blanc, deciding on everything together. Since 2018 we also have two hectares of Chardonnay with which we make a blend, of Chenin and Chardonnay. For my red wines under the name Anne-Cécile Jadaud it’s only me deciding.
Why did you want to make your own red wines and sell them under your own name?
With Domaine Perrault-Jadaud everyone always assumed it was Tanguy making the wine alone. I didn’t exist! Because I am a woman. In 2014 I began consulting on wine. I helped winemakers to make their wines. I began to get ideas for my own wines and wanted to try them out. That’s really the first reason. But the second was… to exist! In the south, back in the days, there were very few women working in wine cellars as a maîtresse de chai, a cellar master – in the whole départment of Hérault to which Montpelier belongs, we were only two. It was tough, I needed to fight and had to prove myself often. But then, because we weren’t many, people remembered you more easily. When I’m with Tanguy people automatically assume that I’m the one responsible for administrative matters only. Oh, and that I represent the Domaine at salons, fairs. No one assumes that I work in the cellar. Things are changing though, since 2010, I would say. Female winemakers are portrayed in magazines and are more visible, generally speaking. In my first class at the wine school about which we talked earlier on there were only boys. Now, for the classes in which adults learn about wine making, it’s often fifty- fifty, for the young ones it’s one-third women, two-thirds men.
Do you like the term ›natural wine‹? What kind of wine do you make?
I make wine. I never say ›natural wine‹ when speaking about my wines because for me that is a wine that just uses grapes and that’s all. I make organic wine, that’s a ›label‹ I respect but then, in France, and not only there, you can do so many things to the wine which I don’t consider ›organic‹ at all. It’s not a clear term, unfortunately. In North America there are different labels for organic wine which I like because that makes it all more precise. France is changing though. Still, which consumer can really tell what the winemaker did to the wine just by looking at a label?
You’re buying the red grapes that you use to make your own wine. This kind of business is called négoce.
Like ›organic‹ this is a very broad term, quite unspecific. There are big companies who buy wine from all sorts of places and blend them to create wines that don’t have any identity. I myself buy eighty percent of my grapes from just one domaine, the Domaine de Cambalu in Francueil which is situated in the Vallée du Cher in Touraine. It is run by Julien Moreau and his brother Frédéric. Their father was delivering his grapes to the local cave cooperative, he didn’t make any wine himself. When his sons took over the business they decided to work their vineyards organically, only selling to winemakers working organically, too. Marie Rocher, whom you also know, buys her grapes from the Moreaus as well. I have my own parcels of Côt, in the south they call it Malbec, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. As they are my own parcels there is continuity.
What kind of relationship do you have with the growers? Do you visit them often or speak to them on the phone?
Alors… I trust them. They do brilliant work. I have a lot of jobs, I just don’t have the time to visit them often. I always visit them though before the harvest, twice, to taste, to check. Tanguy’s and my harvest usually starts before the harvest of my red grapes at the Domaine de Cambalu so I need to take care of that and can only speak to Julien on the phone to receive information about the maturity of the grapes. When it’s time to pick I take my team, if it’s not still occupied with our own harvest, with me so we can pick ourselves. We then bring the grapes to where you are now, to our cellar in Chançay, which is where I make my wines.
And where do you get the other twenty percent from if I may ask?
I’ve always wanted to work with the grape Pineau d’Aunis which Julien has but doesn’t sell so he can have it all for himself. So since last year I’m getting the grapes from Dominique Norguet in the Loire-et-Cher department.
Let’s speak about your wines in more detail!
I have a Côt, a Gamay and a Pineau d’Aunis, they are pure, monocépages.
How did you decide on your one blend?
I decided before the harvest. I had an idea, blending Gamay with Cabernet Franc and some Côt. I wanted to make a very rich wine, rich in flavour but not with a lot of tannins. So I let Gamay and Côt ferment together while Cabernet Franc fermented on its own. As I was looking for fruitiness I used the method of carbonic maceration for the Gamay and the Côt. As you pick Côt at a later date the Gamay macerated for a much longer period of time – as Côt is very rich in tannins I was absolutely happy with it macerating for only a very short amount of time, just four or five days. I didn’t want to rely only on carbonic maceration so to create a ›richer‹ taste I used the Cabernet Franc grapes – and only them. Égrapper is the French word meaning to take the grapes off their stems, and that’s what I did with the Cabernet. In the tank its grapes were covered with grape juice every three days – arrosage, we say – to achieve a very light maceration. I loved the funny flavours I got in the end. This year, in 2021, I could strongly taste roasted green pepper! The blend is very expressive and confuses people, they can’t tell how I made the wine, using two different macerations, and what grapes I used.
So what wines will I be selling for you then?
There is »Joueurs de nez«, that’s the blend I’ve just talked about, from 2019. Then there is »Et si«, a strong Gamay from 2018. I had it macerate for two weeks, the whole grape, and then stamped on it with my feet, a pigeage like they do in Burgundy, to bring out the tannins. I then let it rest, first in a barrel for six months, then in the bottle, for twelve months. It’s a Gamay with a solid structure that goes very well with food. Then there is »Charivari« from 2019, a rosé pet nat made from two- thirds Gamay and one-third Grolleau. Finally: the Côt »Côtillon rouge« from 2019 and »Sergent Pepper«, the Pineau d’Aunis from 2020.