25-year-old Louise Chéreau represents the third generation of her family working at Domaine Chéreau Carré in Muscadet, suppliers of The Society's Muscadet since 1985. News editor Joanna Goodman caught up with Louise at The Society's Loire tastings in July and found out more about what it is like to be brought up in a winemaking family and her aspirations for the future.
What are your earliest memories of being part of a winemaking family?
One of my earliest memories is of being taken as a young child with my brother by our mother to the harvest in the afternoon. We really liked this because the atmosphere was (and still is) very cheerful and we had a good impression of what it would be like to participate in our parents' work.
At what stage did you become involved in the family business and did you always know that this was what you wanted to do?
My parents never insisted that I should choose to go into wine but I started to get involved in the business a year ago. I was already interested in the wine business but did not know if I wanted to work with my parents. In the end it seemed like a logical step and when it came down to it, I did not want to do anything else.
How different are things today compared to your earliest memories?
I am still very young and don't have enough experience yet to understand all the changes that have occurred in the past 25 years. But that the wine business is evolving is undeniable; there are lots of changes in terms of production, technology, marketing etc… I think wine is becoming popular for a new generation and wine growers, with the help of merchants like The Wine Society, have fought hard to get away from the concept that wine is for an elite few.
What about the effects of climate change? Has this had an impact on the way things are done compared to when you were younger?
We are very lucky to be located just a couple of kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and just south of the Loire River. Our mild climate protects us from the frosts and hail. In the past 20 years we have noticed warmer conditions which counter-balance our relatively cool climate in a positive way. Grapes gain in ripeness and we harvest a bit earlier and our wines gain in complexity and balance. The soil is not becoming arid, as is the case in other parts of France; the south in particular.
What is your current role in the family business and where do you see yourself going?
In a family business it is very hard to have just one role. As I have a commercial background, I am more involved in the sales and in particular export. I travel a lot to meet all our partners around the globe, but I do not neglect the sales in France and work with our wine reps around the country.
When I am at the winery I participate in the day-to-day tasks with our staff (supply chain, e-mailing and communications etc). As I studied marketing, I am developing new communication tools that we haven't used before (new website, new brochures etc). Also my father and I conduct tours of the winery and give tastings for visitors.
In the future I would like to be more involved in the winemaking process in itself.
What did you study at college and where have you been on work experience?
After high school, like many young people, I did not really know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to study languages. So I went to the Law University in Nantes and chose a special route which permits you to have both a law and languages' degree.
After getting my degree I had a change of mind and went to business school to study for a Masters' degree in Wine and Spirits Marketing and Management in Bordeaux.
I completed my studies with two internships. I first went to a winery in Saint-Emilion working in the wine tourism field. The following year I got the opportunity to go to the United States to work with our national Muscadet importer. I was in charge of developing the sales for the French portfolio and in particular Muscadet. On my return from the US I decided to join the family business.
What aspect of the business or wine do you feel particularly passionate about?
Wine is both sociable and fashionable. I really believe in its potential to bring people together. When I am travelling I meet a lot of people from different countries, cultures and social backgrounds; people that are wine experts and others that are just casual wine drinkers and even non-wine drinkers. That just goes to show what an everyday product wine is and how it crosses many boundaries.
How is the working relationship with your father (Bernard)? Do you find that you agree on most things or do you have quite different views?
We have only been working together really for a few months. Our working relationship is still developing! He is very patient in explaining things to me. I hope with my fresh pair of eyes and the knowledge that I have acquired that I can add something to the business and perhaps inject a bit of modernity into the way we work. Of course, I don't always agree with all the processes we do and my father does not always understand some of the changes I would like to make. But, the most important thing is that we agree on the philosophy of our winery and the objectives we have. We are looking in the same direction.
What do you consider to be the big challenges for your property and for your generation?
The big challenge for my generation is the development of marketing tools. It is something that our parents' generation are not so familiar with and it is now a relevant part of the work. The new world countries have a very efficient marketing process and this has helped them, I believe, to gain greater market share globally.
Muscadet is quiet a well-known appellation around the world, renowned for producing good quality wine which represents good value for money, but we still need to promote it because everything is evolving very fast today and it is important to remain front of mind for consumers and a new generation. This is something that I need to build in the next years for my winery.
Do you have a particular ambition that you'd like to fulfil?
We have the chance to have a beautiful winery at Château de Chasseloir. At the moment nobody lives here; it used to be my grandparents' residence but they passed away four years ago. My grandfather's dream was to create a gastronomic restaurant at the château. I don't know if it is possible but I would like to find a way of sharing this place with people. The project is not yet underway but will be in the next few years. The aim of this is to share our passion with people and demonstrate that wine is not just for the elite few but for everybody.
Do you see yourself doing things a little differently from your parents' generation?
Yes, but I will follow in their footsteps. I think that plenty of things can be done but we need to stay on the same path and be true to one and the same philosophy.
Is there anything else that you'd like to tell us about your wines or recent vintages?
We are really lucky to have one of the most beautiful wineries in Muscadet. I am very proud today to be a part of this family company because we make the wines we like in order that people can enjoy the best Muscadet.
I am particularly happy to belong to a winery which aims to show people the whole palette of aromas and flavours that Muscadet has to offer by using different kinds of winemaking processes (on the lees or not, with or without ageing in bottles, stainless steel, concrete vats or in oak) whilst demonstrating the different terroirs of the Sèvre et Maine area.
The aim is always to make the best quality wines we can for our customers.
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