An Interview With Dominique Demarville - Cellermaster Veuve Clicquot

 


Veuve Cliquot is an Iconic brand of Champagne. From the instantly recognizable orange label, many people simply ask for the Champagne with the orange label, to the Tete de Cuvee; La Grand Dame, their wines are sought out the world over.
With a history spanning 3 centuries, the house of Veuve Clicquot has been at the forefront of numerous advances that helped revolutionize the wines of this esteemed region of France. From the invention of the riddling rack, which helps to remove sediment from the bottles to the stylish packaging and accessories that accompany today’s releases, Veuve Clicquot remains ahead of the pack and plans to stay there.

We recently had the chance to interview the newest addition to the winemaking team at Veuve Clicquot: Celarmaster Dominique Demarville.  With a distinguished career already under his belt, though he is barely past 40, Dominique is an exciting addition to the Veuve Clicquot team.

1) What was you early introduction to wine like? Was it professional or social? When did it happen and who was instrumental in stimulating your interest.

My first introduction to wine was in 1985. I did my first harvest in Charly sur Marne, Champagne. I had been invited for the harvest as a picker. I was student and I saw this as just an opportunity to earn some pocket money. Instead, it was the beginning of a love affair. After this experience, I wanted to know more about vines, wines, terroir, vinegrowers ... . In 1986, I reoriented my studies to wine business.

2) When did you make the transition for a personal appreciation of wine to choosing it as a career path? Who or what wineries influenced this decision?

Everything starts during the harvest 1985. Since this first contact with the vines and wines, my passion is still growing for this wonderful life. All the experiences I had in the various wineries I worked at increased this passion. Many people helped me on this path. The last one was Jacques Peters, who transmitted his 30 years of experience at Veuve Clicquot.

3) How have your early professional views on the wine industry changed?

My view doesn't change. My passion and curiosity for wines and vines is still the same. The wine industry is very diverse but we must never forget we make wines for our clients, not for us.

4) What is your current professional philosophy? Have you been able to influence your current employer or have you adapted to their philosophy?

Quality of grapes and wines is in the heart of my philosophy. It needs lot of riguor and work. I hadn't to change my philosophy when I joined Veuve Clicquot. Quality is also the Veuve Clicquot philosophy. Madame Clicquot motto was : "one quality only, the finest". It is the same under my rule.t

5) What is your work like? Can you detail your annual work cycle?

Three main responsabilities dominate my work : grapes supply, winemaking and blending and training the teams around the world. Everything starts at the harvest in september or october. Just after, we do the blending tasting from mid-october until january. On average, we do the blending in february and the bottling starts end of february or early march for 7 to 8 months. I travel to train our Veuve Clicquot ambassadors around the world from April to July, sometimes in October. The grapes supply is done along the year with visit of vineyards, press centers and contracts signature.

6) Can you comment on the hot topics that dominate today’s wine dialog?

  • Organic, Sustainable, and Biodynamic farming. It is a very interesting orientation in terms of vinegrowing. However, I prefer to talk about sustainable vinegrowing, which is today well implanted in Champagne. At Veuve Clicquot vineyard, it is a true philosophy, implemented by Christian Renard, our vineyard director. This viticulture makes we reduce pesticides and herbicides, we use new technics like sexual confusion for the butterflies, like grass in the vines. Veuve Clicquot is a leader and a strong influencer for sustainable development in Champagne.
  • Synthetic vs. Natural yeast I will not say synthetic but selected. It means it is natural yeasts which were selected and grown. I prefer to use these selected yeast because they produce very consistent and full fermentations, without bad flavours.
  • Climate change It means our harvest takes place earlier. The champagne region is at the northern limit of the vine growing, so that still means end of september.
  • Terroir: Everything starts with the terroir : no great wines without great terroir.

  • 7) What are the production and stylistic differences between Veuve Clicquot’s Non-vintage, vintage and Grand Dame wines?

    All our cuvées belong to the Veuve Clicquot style : powerful, complex and structured. It is of course because the Pinot Noir predominates in our blendings but also thank to the quality of our vineyards. Our non vintage (Yellow Label and Veuve Clicquot Rosé) are of course fresher and more fruity. They are dedicated to aperitif, light food. The Vintages are more intense and rich, with a strong palate. They are dedicated to more sophisticated food. The wine connaisseur are often very enthousiast with our old vintages. And La Grande Dame is the quintessence of Veuve Clicquot style, with lot of minerality yet wonderful creaminess: a perfect balance.

    8) What are some favorite wines?

    White, red and dessert. What are some memorable food and wine matches that you have had or can recommend. I'm a burgundy lover, specially Pinot Noir. But I love to discover wines from everywhere in the world. For example, when I travel, I like to buy wines from the country I visit (if it is a producer). By luck, I had the opportunity to live many memorable food and wine matches. I love for example caviar with Yellow label. The japanese cuisine works also very well with our champagnes. I recommend to be as simple as possible with food and Champagne pairing. Of course, seafood, fish are the most easy food to paire with champagne. But you can for example have very nice experiences with meat and old vintages, with apple tart tatin with demi-sec.t

    9) How has Veuve Clicquot paired wines with food for the guests at the domaine?

    At Veuve Clicquot, we have two chefs : Laurent Beuve and Christophe Panetier. They work closely with the winemaking team to creat dishes which is perfectly match with our wines. Several times a year, we try many reciepies with them. We select food which increases the taste of our wines.

    10) If you had the chance to work anywhere on earth, besides Veuve Clicquot, where would you want to go?

    In french vineyard: definitively in Burgundy where Pinot Noir makes top red wines; In new world vineyard: New Zealand.

    Mentioned in this article

    Comments

    • Snooth User: Piccolo161
      199543 37

      Hi Gregory
      Thanks for the article about Veuve Clicquot - interesting reading. Funnily enough I had just finished a short paper on VCP and this provided some useful additional information. I'll send you a copy once it's done.
      Two comments, if I may. I think the White Label Demi-sec is underated ( and indeed demi-sec is in general, IMO ). It's gorgeous for late night drinking with or without dessert/soft cheese.

      The other point - and I hope I'm not being too nit-picking here - but I wish Dominique could have found something more distinctive to say about La Grande Dame other than its 'minerality and creaminess: a perfect balance'. This doesn't do it justice and I believe that most prestige cuvée champagne makers would say something pretty similar about their champagnes.

      Thanks again and I look forward to reading more in future.

      Jiles Halling

      Sep 23, 2009 at 4:04 PM


    • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
      Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
      89065 213,325

      I too love Demi to and an evening with. It is certainly a lovely style when done properly.

      Looking forward to reading what you have when it's ready.

      Thanks!

      Sep 23, 2009 at 7:42 PM


    • Youve had at least 3 responses. But the one I sent you yesterday was on the negative side. Do you only print reinforcing responses?

      Sep 25, 2009 at 6:13 PM


    • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
      Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
      89065 213,325

      No,
      I did not see your response and certainly did not delete anything from this thread.

      Sep 26, 2009 at 4:02 PM


    • Thanks for the respose, Greg, I sent you another copy yesterday.

      Sep 28, 2009 at 8:47 AM


    • Perhaps the problem is that I didn't hit the "Post Comment" a second time. So, I will try that now as I resend my comments (below):

      "Gregory, I teach wine classes regularly and find that, whenever I pair up Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label with a less expensive Grower Producer or Recoltant-Manipulant Champagne (and I'm talking less than $35/btl retail here), the Veuve unanimously comes out second best, despite the fact that it usually retails in the $40 to $50 range. That shouldn't be so surprising, since Yellow Label is made not only from purchased, and many times inferior, grapes to what the Grower Champagne producers nurture in their own vineyards, but also because the Yellow Label Cuvee is made up of purchased juice and, I suspect, bulk wine as well. They have to do this in order to sustain the huge volume they produce. Ask Dominique what the annual number of Yellow Label cases produced is - 500,000, 1,000,000 or more? Compare this with a Grower Producer who turns out less than 10,000 to 20,000 cases of hand made, high quality Champagne a year. I personally like Yellow Label, because it tastes good and makes a great gift - since the recipient has been preconditioned through decades of heavy Cliquot advertising to believe that Yellow Label is "one quality only, the finest". For those two reasons, as a gift, I think it's a good buy - especially if you can get it deeply discounted below $40. But, I think it is a little sad that a supposedly wine savvy source like Snooth would be propagating Clicquot's romantic "one quality only, the finest" myth."

      Sep 28, 2009 at 9:51 AM


    • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
      Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
      89065 213,325

      Hi Choice master.

      I don't see how I have propagated any myth regarding Veuve Clicquot.

      I m guessing that one reason the Yellow Label loses out to RM champagne is the dosage. It's too sweet for my tastes and of course anything produced in these quantities is, by definition, going to lack the distinctive qualities of a more artisinal producer.

      On the other hand not everyone is going to have the selection that you and I might enjoy so it makes sense for us to look at widely distributed wines as well as those with more narrow markets.

      As far as Veuve Cliquot goes did you actually read the email? If so, have you tried their demi-sec?

      Oct 05, 2009 at 12:35 PM


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