Claire Burle is the young winemaker who has recently taken over the running of Domaine Font Sarade, 35 hectares of vineyards in the heart of the Rhône Valley.
Have you always known that you would make wine for a living?
No, it was no easy feat! Of course, I’d grown up with wine, but my studies and diplomas were oriented to the commercial side, and sales techniques, of wines and spirits. I started being interested in wine-tasting when I was 18. What drove me was more to remain in the family tradition than follow my passion. It was like a logical course of the events…passion arrived later.
If you were not making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
I think I would be working in a marketing and events organisation.
What is your first memory about wine?
I still remember when my father Bernard woke up very early and went back to bed very late, during the “remontage”. The winery is underneath the house; we could hear the noises from the pumps when they were running at 4 am.
Also, I have always liked the smell of the fermenting wine…
How would you describe your philosophy in 3 words?
Precision, perseverance, patience.
You say working in a traditional way, carrying on “what you have learned from your predecessors”. What does that mean?
I have always seen my father working in a way of respecting the terroir and the grape varieties. The “anciens” taught him these techniques. Methods evolved (the machines, of course), but I keep in mind what my grandfather – who is still working at the domaine – taught me, about respecting the vines.
In the winery, we always try to find new processes to improve our wines and our vines, as they also evolve. Every year, we question ourselves, but keeping as an objective our traditional method, as this is the one that defines the wines we love making and drinking.
Can you explain your terroir in a few words and what makes it special?
The diversity of our terroir is key. We have many types of terroirs and soils. Clay soil for Vacqueyras, calcareous for the Gigondas, sandy for the Ventoux and stony for the Plan de Dieu. Our terroir is really rich and each of these soils bring specificity to the wine.
Is there a winemaker or a wine region that has been your stylistic guiding light?
My father really likes Bordeaux wines. Thus, he took inspiration from their wine-making methods.
I prefer the northern appellations and Côtes du Rhône, for example, with delicacy and a hint of wood.
What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
To make a wine we are proud of every year. With consistency in style and in quality for our customers.
What do you drink if it is not your own wines?
I like Alsace and Savoie white wines. My soft spot would be for a Cassis du Domaine du Paternel (wine from Cassis in the South of France).
Bordeaux is always a treat when we have the chance to buy some, and of course, Burgundy.
The best way to taste / to enjoy your wine? (friends, family, special music…)
With friends and family, gathered for a good meal, indulging yourselves in old vintages.
Our first purchase from you was in 2009, so some of our customers might have some back vintages of the wines listed above in their cellar. What is for you the best vintage you have ever made?
2009 is a very elegant vintage, that is drinkable now. 2010 was amazing, but it was a very hot year. I would say 2016, this vintage is perfectly balanced.
Can you tell us a funny story that imprinted your memory in your estate?
It was not a funny story at the time, but a few years later, we laugh about it. It was the first year we produced in our brand-new winery and we needed to get accustomed to it, but the harvest happened unexpectedly. It was a nightmare, we had so many problems, all in all, a very chaotic time then. Now, everything is settled and we are used to this amazing winery.
Do you have some new projects, ambitions for the domaine?
We would like to build a new wine-tasting cellar and a new farm.
And of course, keep producing the wines we love.