|Pierre Henry Gagey of Louis Jadot was in Delhi recently to promote his wines. Louis Jadot is one of the five largest Burgundy wine producers. Louis Jardot wines are available in most five star hotels and select restaurants across India. Read excerpts from an exclusive interview that he conducted with Sommelier India.
Pierre-Henry Gagey of Louis Jadot and Aman Dhall of Brindco Ltd pose for Sommelier India. Brindo imports Louis Jadot into India.
Pierre-Henry Gagey was born in Beaune, France in 1955. He became President of Maison Louis Jadot in 1991 after working as assistant MD under his father, André Gagey, one of the most respected figures in the Burgundian wine trade. In India recently with his wife, Mr Gagey spoke to Sommelier India in an exclusive interview. Excerpts from the wide-ranging interview are given below:
Can you tell us what makes Burgundy such a great wine producing region?
We have been producing wine in Burgundy for around 2000 years. Most probably because the Pinot Noir grape was growing wild in Burgundy 2000 years ago. When we were invaded in France by the Romans, they came with the knowledge of how to produce wine. So they taught us how to look after the vineyards, and because the Pinot Noir was there, wild, it became the variety of grape that people started to use.
At the beginning, of course, the quality of wine was very different from what it is today. It was only one thousand years later, when the monks opened many convents in Burgundy that we really started to produce wines of quality because the monks realized that instead of planting vineyards in the easy area, the flat area, where the soil was very rich, to produce wines of quality it was much better to plant the vineyards on the slopes where it was not easy to look after. But where it was so rocky and difficult that instead of having big bunches we began to produce very small berries, very small bunches which resulted in wines of delicacy, elegance and finesse. So quality Burgundy, most probably, started around 900 or one thousand years ago.
So small grapes are better for making wine?
You need small grapes and small berries, especially for Pinot Noir. You need to have a vineyard that does not feel too comfortable. The difficulty produces character, complexity and personality.
The reason why we can produce that wine today is because we have the harmony between the grape, (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) the weather and the soil. Our job as winemaker and producer is to try to respect this harmony and to bring out through our wine the expression of what we call terroir. The word terroir is used by many, many people – probably too much right now. But it is our good luck that we have this terroir in Burgundy. And it is our responsibility to keep that and to be very careful not to be tempted to use technology – but to try the opposite and keep to the original, which has made Burgundy famous.
What is Maison Louis Jadot’s place in the region and who was Louis Jadot?
Louis Jadot came from a well known Belguim family that traded coal for wine in the 18th century. Maison Louis Jadot started very small in 1859. In 1954 my father joined Jadot. My mother is also from Burgundy. The family used to own a convent. I joined the company in 1985. And from 1859 to 1985 we have been delivering wine mostly in France but we have now grown the business abroad and 90% of our wines are exported to places where people understand quality and are willing to pay more for the same name. In 1985 Madame Jadot who was still owned the company sold her shares to Mr Kopf of Korbrand who is also our US importer through their company, while 50% of the shares are with our English importer and 20% are in Japan. Our idea is not to grow too fast but to consolidate in Burgundy and maintain quality.
How much wine do you produce every year and besides India where else do you send it? How much wine is consumed in Burgundy itself?
We produce only Burgundy wine and have just one label and one brand for the whole world. We are specialists in Burgundy wine with four levels of quality.
We buy 25% of the grapes from independent growers. Our own domain is Clos Vougot Grand Cru. It is a single vineyard of two hectares. The land costs three million euro and is is extremely expensive. Two hectares produce 400 cases which is 8,000 to 10,000 bottles. It costs 160 euro a bottle and at the Oberoi Hotel in Delhi, Rs. 7500.
Quantity and quality are not good friends. We produce a smaller yield and have to pay the grower more. 90% is exported and 10% stays in France mostly going to restaurants and hotels. Very little is meant for the shops and private people.
When did you start exporting your wines to India and how big is the market?
We started exporting to India in 2003 though we had been thinking about India for a long time. Burgundy constitutes 15% to18% of the Indian wine market by volume. This amounts to 8,000 cases at 250 euros a case of which 1,500 cases are from Maison Louis Jadot. In terms of value this means 30% of the Indian market is Burgundy.
Which are the wine styles of the future?
In wine styles, there are two directions that are taken. There is the international taste which is wine that is easy to understand – very fruity and very good. It is concentrated and deep in colour. On the other side are the wines of terroir – wines of originality and character, that people may or may not like because of its individuality. These are the great wines which will change and age and grow in complexity. This is where we are as Louis Jadot.
We could use more technology and be market driven, but that is not for us because then we don’t take advantage of our good luck. Although for our basic wines we have started to be a little market driven but not for our Grand Cru. The Beaujolais should be drunk young. The Bourgogne Pinot Noir should be drunk young. The Bourgogne Blanc as well.
What do you recommend by way of food and wine matches?
My first reflex is to say drink white wine with spicy food. However, the people who love wine will move very quickly to red wine. If the food is too spicy, it is a little difficult to drink with wine. The Gamay grape will be a nice introduction to Indian food.
Do you have a memorable wine moment?
When I joined Maison Jadot my parents had a special dinner at which my father served two wines which he had produced: a 1959 L Musigny and 1971 Corton Charmalene which are among the most noble wines. He organized this just before he died. It was a fabulous moment of emotion. When I drink a wine that my father has made it tastes better.
Another memorable wine moment was the event I organised when he retired. I invited 50 people from all over the world and made a full day of wine. Just for one day we only drank wine from the 19th century. All the great restaurants and journalists were represented. There were 35 restaurateurs and 15 journalists. We served four whites and eight reds from the 19th century, including an 1865 Clos Bourgogne. The youngest wine was from the 1904vintage.
Do you have any advice for wine lovers in India when it comes to nurturing their interest in wine?
Try to discover what you like. Divide yourself between the New World wines and those from France and Italy. For the New World wines decide by the variety of grape – whether Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir among the reds. From the whites try Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
From the traditional wine growing countries, choose by region, Burgundy or Bordeaux, for example, or a particular region in Italy. Taste a few different wines and see where your taste goes. Start with a Village wine to educate your palate because to begin with you may not understand the wines and it can become very expensive. After that your taste will grow.
And a final word of advice?
Trust your own palate. This is very important. And when you travel try to go at least once to a vineyard and a winery. Because the relationship of wine to the vineyard will make you understand and appreciate.