What do you see when you look in the mirror?
That’s quite a disturbing question. It depends: some days you think, 'Ah, not too bad,' other days you look like shit, you’re awful, you’re too old. But most days, it’s O.K.
Where were you born?
In my village, Dambach-la-Ville, in Alsace.
Were you always destined to be in the wine industry?
Yes, my father pushed my brother and me from a very young age to taste wine. When I was 12 years old, we would try wine with lunch. Every holiday and every summer break, we would be helping out in the winery – sweeping up or putting bottles into cases – or at harvest.
Why aren't you a winemaker?
It’s a good question. My brother has more sense of the earth, the vines. I was keen to do more study and travel.
What are the benefits of working for a family winery?
It’s your own product, your own baby, so you give all that you can to it. You are your own boss, which is great. You have no one on top of you. You can do it your own way, so we do things differently from our parents’ generation. That’s the big benefit.
And the drawbacks?
Oh, there are many – perhaps more than the benefits! You spend a lot of time working. There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders because you are taking over from the previous generations. You don’t want to be the generation that spoils everything the previous generation worked for.
How has the winery changed since you took over?
My father used to make a lot of wine – he was more into the strategy of developing volumes. He used to buy grapes as well as grow them. But our ambition is to reduce the volumes and dedicate ourselves to quality. We have since reduced production volumes by one-third.
What’s your greatest achievement?
Besides work, my family. I don’t have an ambition to achieve anything amazingly big. I’m pretty much like our wines: simple. I want the next generation to be proud of us. I don’t want to be the black sheep of the family – I want the family winery to last as long as possible, and to hand it on to the next generation.
Whom or what do you most admire in life?
I think it would be my grandfather, Willy, for what he achieved. I was always impressed by how charismatic he was. He was very dedicated to wine and he was a real visionary for his time. He did things other people weren’t doing. I wish I could be more like him, but I know I’m not.
What do you most like in a wine?
I’m in a certain period of my life where I want freshness and acidity – wines to drink, not wines to taste. I’m now drinking more white wines, whereas I went through a period where I was drinking red, heavy wines.
What do you most dislike in a wine?
Those heavy, full-bodied, strong-in-alcohol wines with too much richness – perhaps because I’m not a big-bodied person. I probably didn’t like them before, but when you are young you like that, and the older I get the more finesse I like.
What’s your view of awards?
I don’t like them that much. I think the system is not very subjective. You have to subscribe to the competitions because it’s necessary to sell the wines in certain countries. You go to Asia and their knowledge level is not high enough for people to make their own decisions, so they choose according to competition or media recommendations.
And your thoughts on the 100 point-scoring system?
For those who need it, why not? You have to be judged. It’s hard for a winegrower to be judged – the wine is your baby. If someone says they don’t like it for some reason, it’s hard to swallow, but you have to swallow it. I understand the system but I don’t subscribe to it.
Is wine elitist?
Globally, yes. Even in France the perception of the wine industry is that it is for the wealthy.
During harvest, whom or what do you pray to?
I pray to the weather. I’m like one of those elderly people who reads the newspaper and says, ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s going to rain tomorrow,’ or, on the contrary, ‘When is the rain coming, we need rain.’
Where would you like to be buried?
It doesn’t matter to me: if it’s in the vineyard, why not? But it’s a little bit of a cliché. I don’t believe in God so I don’t mind.
What would you want your last wine to be?
A wine by us – surely a riesling. Something very mineral with 10 years in bottle.
What brings you the greatest happiness?
For my work, it’s what I’m doing now: traveling and meeting people. In France, people are bored of wine and give the impression that they know everything about wine, but in Asia they are really interested in the product and that’s what I like the most. Personally, it’s sharing good moments with good food, good wine and good friends.
Plenty of regrets: when I was young, I played the electric guitar. I wanted to be in a rock band. I played in a band in my 20s but it was just for fun. It was really just a fantasy.
What is the biggest challenge for Alsace?
If we allow planting rights, farmers will be able to rip out their corn and grow hundreds of acres of vines. From a quality point of view it’s not good. They will be able to plant in places that are not suited to vines in terms of quality, which will lead to massive production. We have been fighting for years to reduce yields in Alsace. It took us centuries to find the good soil and grape varieties to match. It’s to protect ourselves.