There are jobs that you don't do by chance, particularly in the wine industry. Winemaker is one of them, let's focus on this profession of passion and, originally, of transmission.
Whether they are a tenant or owner of their vineyard, the winegrower is above all a farmer who is passionate about vines and wine. Their know-how is therefore twofold: they are an expert in vine cultivation and an expert in winemaking. He/she works alone or employs employees or is himself employed. Some join wine cooperatives which bring together several winegrowers, thus allowing them to pool the costs of production (winemaking, packaging and storage operations) and marketing (sales).
This complex and demanding profession requires precise know-how and a keen understanding of the nature and direct environment of the vine.
A true climbing vine with knotty wood, the vine requires a lot of attention and maintenance throughout the year. The winegrower must know perfectly its life cycle, the strengths and weaknesses of their vine, depending on the terroir and the grape variety chosen, in order to provide it with the care and nutrients it needs to fully flourish and produce bunches of grapes. quality. Throughout the seasons, including winter, the winegrower maintains the vines and carries out various essential works:
In addition to maintaining the vines, the winegrower maintains the soil: weeding, grass control, tillage for better drainage in winter.
Mastering the maintenance of the vine is an essential know-how for the winegrower but it is not enough for the winegrower who is able to master each of the viticultural stages: the cultivation of the vine, the harvest of the grapes, the manufacturing of wine called vinification, the packaging of wine and its marketing.
At the end of summer, the winegrower harvests their vines andfinally reaps the fruits of the care given to their vines throughout the year: the grapes. Depending on the vineyards and farms, the harvest is done manually or mechanically, generally between September and October. The choice of the harvest date falls to the winegrower who will have closely followed the maturation of the grapes on a plot. To do this, they carry out sampling to taste the berries and have them analyzed by a laboratory in order to estimate with good precision and good reliability the average of the main analytical parameters of the musts (quantity of sugar, total acidity, pH, etc.) .
It is a reality, particularly today with climate change, the weather and its hazards are a facilitating or disabling factor in viticulture. Successive spring frosts, hail, floods, droughts and hot winters disrupt the vine cycle and the work of the winegrower. Faced with these increasingly intense climatic phenomena, the winegrower uses more and more applications and tools (anti-hail cannons, candles, anti-freeze towers, etc.) to anticipate as much as possible, act in prevention and best protect their vines and their harvests. In order to keep the signature wine profile, the winegrower needs more and more often to adapt the green work of the vine and the harvest date.
Reception of the harvest, sorting of the berries, destemming and crushing, cold maceration, adjustment of the musts, alcoholic fermentation, pressing and malolactic fermentation, post-fermentation maceration, ageing and bottling...here are so many technical steps which involve the regular meticulous intervention and expert handling of the winemaker.
Once the wine is produced and aged, the winemaker puts on their salesman's costume. It would be a shame and inconceivable if a full year of work on the vines and wine resulted in the bottles being stored in the winemaker's cellar. So that the bottles arrive on your table, whether at home or in a restaurant, the winemaker maintains close relationships throughout the year with distributors, restaurateurs, wine professionals but also with direct consumers. To do this, they regularly offer tastings to professionals and maintains a link with their customers via social networks, their website and direct correspondence with newsletters. This marketing stage can be entrusted to a Sales Manager employee to free up the winemaker's time. The support of a Sales Manager is all the more relevant as the wine sector is ultra-competitive. Frequent travel is to be expected to ensure the organization of tasting meetings, visits and participation in fairs and competitions, in France or abroad depending on the desired commercial development.
As you will have understood, with all the missions incumbent on the winemaker, among the key skills for exercising this profession we identify versatility and rigor. They carry out control of all stages and consistency of each action throughout the wine-making process, from the vineyard to ageing in the bottle. Mastery of each of these stages does not, however, prevent them from being assisted and supported by an agronomist in the vineyard or an oenologist in the cellar. Knowing how to surround yourself with the right people is often the key to success.
Having a sense of contact and an appetite for sharing your passion and your profession is one of the essential qualities in the profession. The winemaker is always keen to promote their wines and know-how. This translates very well during visits to the estate. Do not hesitate to ask questions during your next visit to a vineyard, the winemaker will undoubtedly not be short of details and will be delighted to share their professional experience with you.
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous climatic hazards and challenges in successfully growing vines and making wine. The winemaker is always ready to take on these challenges and deal with the constraints encountered on a daily basis. These constraints are all the more important when the winegrower chooses organic viticulture. The winemaker demonstrates resilience and self-questioning at each stage of the vine cycle and wine making. They agree to work mainly outdoors at an irregular annual pace. Indeed, following the vine cycle involves alternating periods of calm with periods of great activity. But if the challenges to be met are numerous, the satisfactions and rewards are just as many. A rewarding outdoor job!
The field of viticulture can be learnt through an apprenticeship from the CAP in vineyard and wine to the engineer, via the Professional Baccalaureate, the BTS (Bac +2 level) technical-commercial or viticulture-oenology and the Professional License . Specializations are offered throughout the studies.
In summary, the winemaker is both a farmer, an oenologist and has the soul of an entrepreneur, ready to embrace both the challenges and the many satisfactions of the profession on a daily basis. Their work combines precision, experience and technical knowledge, in order to select the best grape varieties and terroirs which will produce great wines. An ancient profession which is still passed down today between generations of the same family, as with the Sylvain Family.
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