Women Winemakers of Chablis, Part One

We love Chablis. Real Chablis. The gorgeous white wine made from the chardonnay grape in Chablis, France. (Wines in much of Europe are named for where they’re made, as opposed to what they’re made from mostly because there are rules in the various regions that define what wine will be made there.) So when Anne got a press release last spring celebrating the Women of Chablis, she jumped on it.

The result is a series of email interviews with six women winemakers from the Chablis region, translated from the original French by someone else because Anne’s French is in terrible shape. We asked each woman the same three questions.

First up is Nathalie Fèvre, who with her husband Gilles, own Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre.

Women of Chablis
Nathalie & Gilles FEVRE
1.) What makes Chablis different from other wines made from chardonnay?

Nathalie: The unique terroir we have in Chablis – soils and subsoils composed of clay and limestone marl and which contain a multitude of marine fossils – explains why Chablis wines always feature briny and mineral notes, so pure and unique to Chablis, regardless of the vintage. I always say that Chablis is like a memory of the sea.

2.) If someone sees Chablis on the label of a bottle of wine, what should she expect to taste in the wine?

Nathalie: Notes of fruit and white flowers + mineral notes: a mix of spices (tending towards minty when young and towards curry-style spices when aged) combined with salinity. An English client once use this term : seabreeze, which is spot on to describe the sensation felt when you are by the sea and lick your lips.

3.) Finally, how are things changing for women winemakers in France? In the U.S., making wine is still very dominated by men. Are there more women becoming winemakers? Do women make wine differently than men, and if they do, what do they do that’s different?

Nathalie: I started as an oenologist in 1998. Back then, there were very few women at technical levels holding positions of responsibilities in the wine industry. Today, it’s a different story, the world of wine is more open and there’s a lot more women who are winegrowers, oenologists, cellar-masters, vineyard managers, etc.
For example, our Domain is called Nathalie & Gilles FEVRE; both my husband and I work together, we have two children (a boy and a girl) and our daughter, who is an agriculture engineer and oenologist, will take over the family business. Our case is absolutely not unique! It’s just a matter of being open minded: women can be just as successful as men. Our job is our life. It’s all about passion: you need to be passionate to do the right thing and succeed in doing it, but I think that is true for a lot of jobs, right? Finally, the difference between women and men is that women might tend to produce more elegant and complex wines than men? Maybe it is related to women’s own, complex nature? Sometimes, I hear people talk about “women sensitivity,” but I don’t buy it! However, I realize that when I drink a wine, there is a deep personal signature and I would say that the wine has a soul. I can feel the passion the winemaker (man or woman) that went into its making…Again, it’s all about passion.

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