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This interview with Valérie Forgues was done over a Skype conversation in April, 2017.
How did you end up heading Domaine de la Méchinière?
I’m not from the area and have absolutely no
To answer your question about the
So you founded it 20 years ago?
It existed already. We took it over and learned everything from the ground up. From the get-go we were interested in an taking an ecological approach to the vines, which for us at the time meant working
Fast forward to 2008, and I find myself alone at the
I found comfort in this new path of
You never thought about being a vigneronne before this?
I honestly didn’t even think about it. I was focused on raising my sons. At the time, family was my top priority. As you may know, kids take up a lot of time!
So, to backtrack a bit, what inspired you and your ex-husband to start the estate?
My studies at university had focused on
And because of my engineering degree in
Why then did you decide to continue the estate all by yourself in 2008? It must have felt like an enormous undertaking, especially considering how hands-off you had been prior to the separation.
It’s very simple: my children. As a mother, I could not let them lose the house they had grown up in. It was the aura of their entire childhood. Even though it seemed impossible economically, physically and mentally, I nonetheless persevered and stuck my neck out to keep things afloat.
That’s how I felt at the time. I think it was also subconsciously a way to rediscover myself, to find a new strength in myself when I thought there was none left.
So how did you go about taking the estate over?
My brother-in-law was a retired
He was also very helpful in actively engaging me, in encouraging me to come see the work in the vines, what different choices meant, etc... He also made me understand that if I really wanted to do this, just how much responsibility it really meant. From managing employees to working the tractor, he showed me the way.
It was hard though, because of course having him around meant a constant reminder of my ex-husband. It also bothered me because at that point Didier would swing by occasionally and point out that his work was extremely
One day I pulled him aside and told him that his
But then I’d speak to Didier about the same subject, and you can imagine that it was a completely different story! I knew it was a riskier approach, but I became increasingly drawn to it. Conversation by conversation, it got to the point where he told me he would help me through the entire process of transforming the
How did you meet Didier?
It’s the countryside and I live five minutes away from Clos Roche Blanche!
Around 2008, that very difficult period of my life, I also spent a lot of time with Catherine (Roussel). She was incredibly welcoming and a true friend in my time of need. I will never forget her help! I wasn’t socializing much, and I think he saw that I needed help. He’s the one that proposed being more active in reshaping the
What do you think Didier saw in you?
What he saw in me I have no idea. I often ask myself the same question! He probably saw an interesting
But I think what really drew him in was that I kept asking questions. Every answer led to more questions, to new discoveries. The more I discovered from him, the more I wanted to learn! He’s always had the reputation of being extremely knowledgeable, and even back when I was with my ex-husband, we would occasionally solicit him for advice. So there was already an exchange between us and a respect for Didier.
So how did the two of you go about creating the new direction for the estate?
I can’t even remember how the process started. But I know that we constantly talked about what was possible in the vines and the
I think that it was around 2011 that the collaboration was fully under way. He was helping me in the vines, constantly tasting from
As far as
I could never have taken such a big risk without his help, so he agreed he’d be there every step of the way to help me
What were the biggest challenges in the conversion?
I think the biggest challenge when working
What about in the cellar?
This whole experience has taught me that taking the safe approach is bullshit. Using
That sounds like something Didier would say.
You know, the first
2016 was marked by the final step in this whole conversion: your first vintage hand harvesting. How did it go?
It went great! It had been at least two years that Didier had kept telling me I needed to stop
And when we met about a year and half ago to discuss potentially working together, you told me that you would consider bringing the wines in, but the grapes had to be
It’s hilarious because the second Didier and I got back into the car after our meeting, I burst out in laughter and told him: “You’re going to be happy! You’ve been on my case about
In a way, I guess it helped that we had very little to
So yes, it went well.
We’ve talked so much about the metamorphosis of the estate that we haven’t touched on the amount of hectares, grapes grown, etc...
I cultivate 16
I must point out that I do sell a sizable portion of my grapes, about four
How did you meet Puzelat?
I had been invited to a tasting three years ago, and he came to taste at my stand. I did not know who he was, but immediately knew he was a
Meeting Thierry was a godsend. He was the first person to reach out to me about potentially buying grapes. Not only does it save me a lot of work, but that someone was actually interested in my
Do you think you’ll continue working with Thierry?
I’m a very loyal person. When Thierry and I originally discussed selling him grapes, he asked me if I’d consider being a stable source for him in the future. I of course had no problem with that since he was relieving me of such a heavy burden!
Thierry and Jean-Marie have been very good to me, so yes I will continue working with them. It’s a moral and commercial engagement.
What’s the work like in the cellar?
For the whites, the major shift this year came along with our first
For the reds, we
We’ve talked in person about how your labels are quite symbolic to you. Can you elaborate?
One day she was cleaning up her house, and told me she needed to get rid of a bunch of paintings. So she brought a bunch over to my place, because she knew I had room for them. I saw the Tourangelle and something just resonated with me. My family, my region, the depiction of a woman: these are what I want to bring to the
Before the woman we had a very traditional