au sujet du vin français (incl. article in English)

Les délicieux vins de la Colline de l'hirondelle.
(Scroll down for the interview in English)
Je suis sûre que vous aimez lire des blogs bilingues pour pratiquer et améliorer votre français.

Si vos centres d'intérêts, comme les miens, sont éclectiques, il existe sur la Toile de quoi combler (fulfill) la plupart de vos désirs.

La bonne adresse bilingue du jour, c'est le site de la Colline de l'hirondelle, des producteurs de vins du Sud de la France.

Grâce à Jenn Buck et Didier Ferrier, mes amis vignerons (winemakers) installés à Douzens, en Languedoc, non seulement j'ai la chance de pouvoir déguster plein de bons crusmais en plus, j'apprends plein de choses sur le vin.

Jenn et moi vendant du vin
au marché de Lagrasse.
Jenn et Didier font des vins biologiques qui ne portent pas l'appellation de référence AOC; ils préfèrent la désignation Vins de France. Pourquoi? Ils exposent leurs raisons ici.

Ils évoquent aussi un dossier du journal Libération dédié aux femmes dans le milieu du vin, et en particulier la passionnante interview d'Isabelle Legeron une "Master of Wine" française, présentatrice de télévision en Angleterre et vigneronne en Géorgie, qui critique elle aussi la désignation AOC.

Je vous propose de lire cette interview en français, sur le journal Libération. Pour vous aider à comprendre, j'en ai fait une traduction en anglais:

I want to be
Isabelle's best friend
English version of Isabelle Legeron's interview
Based in London, where she hosts a TV show on natural wines, Isabelle Legeron is the only Frenchwoman who holds the famous "Master of Wine" degree. But this high distinction does not prevent her from speaking her mind about the world of wine, the AOC label or Georgian amphorae ...


In an environment awash in acronyms and distinctions, few initials have as much weight and prestige as an “MW” next to a name. For the uninitiated, MW means that Isabelle Legeron holds a "Master of Wine", an English degree granted after arduous studies to the most savvy of wine connoisseurs. She is the only Frenchwoman so far to have earned the title. But seeing her sitting at a cafe in the Marais, huddled in her hoodie, one feels far (thankfully!) from the stuffy milieu of fine winetastings.

Before becoming a MW, Isabelle Legeron, daughter and granddaughter of winemakers, who spends her weekends picking mushrooms or excavating on the banks of the Thames, is first and foremost as natural as the wines she stands for.

Apologizing for not speaking French as well as she would like (she’s lived in London for twenty years), she tells, unafraid to speak her mind or go into flights of lyricism, the unusual story of a “crazy french woman”.

You were born into a winemaking family, but have discovered the wine in England. Isn’t this paradoxical? 
Yes! My family has a vineyard in Cognac, they distill and sell to big houses, and as a kid, I would spend my Wednesdays (days off in French schools NDT) and Saturdays in the vineyards. But I wanted to escape that environment. I have a degree in languages and business, and then ten years ago, my origins caught up with me. I started getting interested in wine making, I worked as a guide in the vineyards, and I launched a wine tasting business, Winelab, before starting the Master of Wine adventure.
It was in England that I discovered the, let’s say "intellectual" side of wine. When I got there, I did not even know that a Burgundy wine was made with Chardonnay ...

Why attempting the dreadful Master of Wine, where the anointed are few and far between, including amongst the French? 
At that time, in addition to Winelab I had a consulting business, and I was trying to start a TV show about wine for the Travel Channel. I worked independently and wanted it to remain that way, and the MW is a way to meet people. Once you're an MW, you're part of a club. We are about three hundred in the world, and three of us are French.
But if I had known the success rate was so low (7%), I wouldn’t have done it! For four years, I spent all my evenings and my weekends on it. The exams at the end of the second year are dreadful, especially the tasting part: for three days, every morning, you blind-taste twelve wines, it’s by deduction process that you can recognize each of them, according to acidity, aromatic profile, alcohol proof , the affinity to wood -is it new wood, old wood, American... All these elements can be used to guess the origin of the wine.
This requires a personal investment, you have to go and visit vineyards, taste the wines. I had an international knowledge of wines from the US, South Africa, Spain, and it helped me. This is one reason why there are so few French people who are MW, I believe: they don’t have access to this diversity.

Then you went on to doing a television show on wine called “That Crazy French Woman” ... 
Indeed. The other MWs think I'm a bit eccentric! (Laughs). In general, they become buyers, or consultants for restaurants or wineries. However, I believe that it is only when you master a subject extremely well, when you have a very classical training, that you can really escape constraint... Over the years, I realized that wine had become an intellectual practice for me, it was no longer about pleasure.
This, to me, is what is wrong with my trade, with wine professionals. Many are in it for the pleasant lifestyle , the soirées, the visits to vineyards, the tastings to grade and label wines, the vertical tastings of Petrus ...
But shortly after my MW, I realized that the only wines that gave me emotion were those made on lands teeming with life, by winemakers with integrity, who use very little additives. I regret that wine is no longer a fresh product, that it is expected to always taste the same year after year, to always remain the same, when wine should be the reflection of a particular year, rainy or hot. These are the values that I want to defend in That Crazy French Woman.

Why do you think the world of wine has become too serious? 
I think it is over-educated. There is this idea that you have to be knowledgeable about wine to enjoy it, which is silly. I reach to a lot of consumers through my tastings, and it is with people who know the least that I have the most fun, they are more open-minded.

What is your view on the world of wine in France? 
What surprises me here, especially in articles about wine, is the sanctification, the romanticism about wine, the lack of critical distance. I feel that people do not have the freedom to say that a wine is not good. But you have to be grounded to talk about wine : it is, after all, an agricultural product! Wine is not the design of a cellar...
For a while in London, I worked with a French bank whose employees always wanted to taste French wines, and kept telling me that they knew producers, or that I should have selected so and so... They felt compelled to know about wine, because wine is so French that it allows no freedom to be interested in something else.
And even if there is snobbery in Britain, and a taste for the Grands Crus, there are also very open-minded people who have fun with wine, more than in France. There is also something quite surprising in France, when you go for a tasting at a winemaker: you actually very rarely end up in the vineyards. You visit the cellar, you see the winery, and tasting ends without you ever seeing a vine. "Really? Want to see the vineyards? Why? "

However, France is also a place of renewal for natural wines ... 
elle fait du vin dans des amphores
Yes, that is true, there are some great things happening here and in Italy, more than elsewhere. There are people like Alexander Bain in Pouilly, or Sébastien Riffault in Sancerre, who plow with horses, and return to the roots of the trade.
Even if the scandalous AOC system should be abolished: when you’re a young producer in a certain type of wine, when you makes wines that are "atypical" and that, for that reason, you do not get the right to the AOC designation, it is a disaster.
This is why I love the designations Vins de France, Vin de Table, Vin de Pays, this is where you find the people who want to get super creative, who want to get out of the shackles of the prehistoric AOC .

You recently started making wine in Eastern Europe? 
Yes, wine in amphorae, in Georgia. It is a specialty of orange wines, macerated on skin, amber-colored and very tannic. They age in clay pots, and you can feel hints of dry sage, dry thyme. It's very original! The best amphorae wines are Italian now, but Georgia is the cradle of European vineyards. It was there that the first vineyard domestication occurred and the first winemaking. There is a tradition of personal winemaking, everyone has a cellar under their house, with amphorae buried there. A few friends and I rent a vineyard, and we bought old amphorae to make our wine Lagvinari, which will hopefully produce four thousand bottles this year. We would like to work with a female student, and train the first woman winemaker in Georgia!

What is the role of women in the world of wine today? 
I've never had a problem as a woman, never a negative experience, even if it is true that it is a male-dominated field. The wine trade and farm labor were traditionally men's jobs. I think speaking of women's wine is super limiting, but I notice that there are more women in "small" regions or in unconventional ventures. In the Languedoc Roussillon or the Loire for example, there are great opportunities, people are not yet established, there may be less preconceived ideas. It is probably easier to start without capital. You can therefore find a greater proportion of women than in conventional, most prestigious areas. And now that I make my own wine, I realize that it’s necessary to have a sensitivity to the passing of life, to aromas. And perhaps women have an open mind and a kind of gentleness that makes their task easier. But don’t be fooled, all the women I know who do great wine, from Elisabetta Foradori to Mylène Bru, have very strong personalities. To be respected as a woman in this environment and be taken seriously, you’ve got to have faith!

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