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An interview with Maison Louis Jadot's winemaker Christine Botton

Maison Louis Jadot is one of the most revered wine houses in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. Led by head winemaker Frederic Barnier, the house produces some of the finest wines in a region known worldwide for its winemaking. Louis Jadot wines are a true expression of their terroir, a term used to describe a region and its particular environmental factors. In fact, the environment is at the heart of the house, making the most of what nature offers, and working with something that is essentially far beyond human control. The Louis Jadot portfolio covers everything from inexpensive Bourgogne and Beaujolais wines to several grand cru wines, from Côte de Beaune to Chablis.

From small beginnings…

Maison Louis Jadot was founded in 1859 in Beaune, Burgundy by Louis Henry Denis Jadot. The Jadot family originated in Belgium, and came to Beaune in 1794, purchasing Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. With grape growing so firmly rooted in his heritage, Jadot’s future was mapped out for him before he was even born. As a young adult he set about gaining experience first in wine cellars, and then in the vineyards themselves in the study of viticulture.

Look at any bottle of Louis Jadot and you will find an image of Bacchus, the god of wine, a symbol of this historic and independent company since the very beginning. The company’s headquarters too, have stayed the same, remaining in the picturesque walled town of Beaune. However, something has changed- the company’s vineyard holdings have increased exponentially. Louis Jadot now owns land in some of Burgundy’s most famous vineyards, spanning 528 acres. Today, in their winemaking, some grapes are from these vineyards, while others are bought from independent growers. This allows for an enormous variety and freedom in their process and also allows them to nurture relationships with different vineyards. Perhaps there is a reason Burgundy is such a vibrant and important winemaking region!

Louis Jadot’s current president is Pierre-Henry Gagey. Son of the former head of the company, Pierre-Henry joined Louis Jadot in 1988, and became president in 1991. He is totally dedicated to Burgundy, respecting the great winemaking tradition of the region and the supreme natural gifts within it. In his own words, “Louis Jadot has always tried to let the vineyard and terroir express itself much more than expressing a house style. Maybe one of our greatest achievements has been to expand whilst respecting the spirit of terroir.”

Head winemaker Frederic Barnier
Winemaker Christine Botton

The philosophy behind the process

However large and successful they have become, Louis Jadot have always stuck to their original philosophy, to always, without fail, respect nature, and never compromise on quality. All Burgundy winemakers share this same philosophy, but Louis Jadot differs in that it focuses on the importance of aging in the winemaking process. Christine Botton, one of the Louis Jadot’s most longstanding winemakers, says, “We believe in the future of the wine, the aging of the wine. This is very important. Other people’s wine is only good for the first five to ten years, but ours, after five to ten years, starts to deliver something else.” Jadot’s non-interventionist cellar practices, including long macerations, the choice of wild yeast when possible for fermentation, fermentation temperature and other winemaking methods have been designed to preserve the character of the fruit in the wines for many years. Botton is a big fan of vintage. Her ideal wine would be a minimum of ten years old, allowing it to develop a full-bodied structure. And her favourite wine? “Premier Cru…I like drinking it all the time.”

The training of a winemaker

Botton entered the wine world after studying agriculture- putting her in good stead for understanding the more practical elements to vineyard management. “I love the relationship between the wine and vineyards, the link between the soil and the sky.” This evident respect for the natural world is vital in all good winemaking, and is particularly notable in the philosophies of Louis Jadot. Botton is a passionate winemaker, excited by the day-to-day challenges, artistry and tradition her job is seeped in. She trained at Jadot, later going on to do Oneology- the study of wines in Dijon. She later went on to become a professional wine taster. Wine tasting is a pivotal part of the Louis Jadot process. As she says, “It’s very important to listen to the vintage.” And at Jadot, they do a lot of this, listening, as they call it, to the vintage, but more importantly of course, tasting it- every step of the way.

“Every year is different and another new challenge.” Botton tells us, “People always try to keep analysing whether wine is good. This is not the spirit of Burgundy. I started working in 1986 and have experienced many vintages. There are always new questions- like climate changes. You must accept each vintage individually. There is no vintage which is similar and every vintage is unique. This is very important concept.”

Listening to nature

Changes in climate are a hugely important consideration for every vineyard, as it affects when the grapes need to be picked, and ultimately, what the wine will taste like. “Thirty years ago,” Botton tells us, “we picked the grapes late, let’s say the first of October. Now we pick the grapes earlier, around the fifteenth of September. I definitely think the quality of grapes is better. They are more ripe and far sweeter. A long time ago, we needed to add sugar into our wine. We now no longer need to because the sugar level in the grapes is better. We have better balance on acidity.” Botton revels in these challenges- no two years are alike if you work in wine, and there’s no way that you can plan exactly what a wine will taste like, you can assume nothing. “It is very important to listen to nature. Do not start a vintage with an idea of what it will end up like, as a winemaker you must be open to anything.” Botton goes on to reminisce about an Ursules vintage they once made at Louis Jadot. “That year Ursules was very early for picking. So it was very dry. Everybody said we must go fast with the vinification. In fact, we didn’t change our winemaking. Each vintage is different, we respect that. We have to explain this to the customers- that sometimes the vintage is very good, sometimes the vintage is very unique. But you cannot assume the wine is always good all the time. It is like a baby, sometimes it is in a good temper but sometimes it’s not!”

Whilst changes in climate is ultimately a challenge for the company, and one certainly highlighted by Botton, Louis Jadot are open and ready for any surprises that the future may hold for them. Last year, Botton tells us, “we picked the grapes very early on the nineteenth of August. But in fact, the balance of the grape is very nice. It is low in acidity. We do not have a big crop. It will be an excellent vintage with good balance.”

The artistry of winemaking

For Maison Louis Jadot, Botton says, “wine and art are the same. When you drink our wine, we want it to give you an emotion. When you see a painting, it’s the same thing. Wine, and art is made to make you feel something, to give you emotions.” Balancing traditional technique and reverence for the natural work with cutting edge technique and technology, each bottle of Maison Louis Jadot is surely a work of art.


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