Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Screw it on, don’t cork it says the white wine supremo

Posted by Kimberly on October 11, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
October 11, 2007, page 4 (513 words)

Crown Macau hosted French winemaker Michel Laroche to showcase Domaine Laroche wines as part of their six-course dinner last night.
The dinner highlighted some of Laroche’s wines including Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2003 and Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Reserve de l’Obedience 2003.
Born in Chablis, in the north of Burgundy, Michel comes from a line of vintners, making him the 5th generation owner of the four-winery, 200-employee family business, creating white wine exclusively.
“I’m a guy from the countryside wearing a tie from time to time,” said Michel, adding that “your business card is your bottle of wine.”
The family business began in 1850 but Michel has been a part of it since 1967, which he refers to as “four percent of the history of Chablis.”
With Michel at the helm, the winery has grown to include Chile and South Africa. Of this expansion, he said “I was a little curious to see the other side of the hills.
“I went to Chile five years ago and to South Africa two years ago,” he said.
Altogether the winery produces about fifty wines, with Michel adding that living in Chablis secures his love for the wine, which he referred to as “a chardonnay with freshness, elegance and balance, all the qualities for wine.”
Asked to what extent his reputation and winery history helps, he said, “I’m quite a modern actor in the industry.
“Every year you can make your wine better, with new techniques,” he added.
One of those techniques includes the use of screw tops as opposed to the traditional cork, which some seem to frown upon. They would argue that the cork’s sealing quality, which allowed in a certain amount of air, was necessary for ageing.
Now, it is well-known that wine is bottled with enough natural air to allow for mellowing at its own rate and the screw top gives the winemaker the freedom to determine the tightness of the seal, without worrying about the wine being “corked”.
“I use a lot of screw caps, on all my most expensive wine,” said Michel who adds that people are shocked.
“There is nothing rational about tradition,” he said.
“Cork is a fantastic invention from the 18th century but today we know how to close a bottle a better way,” he added.
Asked what makes him so successful, Michel said be believed that after 40 years in the industry, he has been consistent, “always looking for quality.
“I’m sure my business can be worth ten times more but I’m not interested. If I sign a bottle I have to be proud of it,” he said, adding that “money isn’t everything.”
Laroche wines are sold in about 80 different countries with France and England accounting for about 17.5 percent of sales each each and China and India future markets.
Michel sums it up simply, suggesting that “there’s nothing special with wine; if you love it, you love it,” and when it comes to winemaking, “you can always do better.
“Perfection is something you never reach.”

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