At just 19 years old, Charlotte Denis is one of the youngest producers to have represented a family domaine at a Wine Society tasting. Our July tasting of Loire wines was also the first that she had done solo and abroad so News editor Joanna Goodman chatted to her about what it is like to be dropped in at the deep end of the family wine business.
Despite not having finished her wine studies yet Charlotte is already very much hands on when it comes to her involvement in the family business. The domaine, on the left-hand bank of the Cher river, in the region known as the 'terroir de Chenonceaux', is very much a labour of love for Charlotte's parents Patricia and Bruno. Patricia, a trained oenologist, looks after the sales and marketing while Bruno tends the 26 hectares of vines and makes the wine. They describe themselves as 'wine enthusiasts' and it is clear that this has transferred to their daughter Charlotte.
It was Bruno's great-grandfather, Albert Denis, who started making wine at Domaine de la Renaudie in 1928 with just two hectares of vines. Charlotte is the first of the new generation to join the family domaine.
I assume that Charlotte is an only child, or at least the eldest, but no, she informs me that she is the youngest of three. Her brother is an engineer and her sister a teacher. 'They are not interested in the wine business,' she says, adding with a twinkle in her eye, 'lucky for me!'
Having completed her higher national diploma in viticulture and oenology at Bordeaux, Charlotte has gone on to study for a degree in marketing and international commerce at Angers University. She is still at college and hopes to supplement her studies with a trip to Australia or New Zealand at some point to gain some experience abroad.
I wonder which aspect of the business she would like to become involved in, whether she is drawn to the winemaking or viticulture or does she enjoy the marketing and commercial side. She confidently replies that she would like to take over the running of the estate eventually. She enjoys talking about wine and during holidays helps out with the cellar-door sales and meeting and greeting customers that call in at the property (Wine Society members not infrequent callers, I understand). But she says that she is equally passionate about working in the vineyard and that her father has taken her into the vineyards at harvest time since she was little. She is keen to point out that helping out with the vintage has never been obligatory but that she has always enjoyed it.
Helping to translate for Charlotte as she enthusiastically talks about her family's wines to members at the tasting (my French being as rusty as her English is newly acquired, but somehow we manage!), I can see that the domaine will be in excellent hands with Charlotte the next generation to take it on and continue to make great-value wines for our enjoyment with the same passion as her parents.
Find out more about the domaine here
Browse for wines from Domaine de la Renaudie
Read more interviews with the new generation of Loire growers