Winemaker Spotlight: Grégory Viennois, Domaine Laroche Technical Director
“They say when it rains, it pours—in the case of Chablis, when it frosts, it hails. It’s been a difficult couple of vintages, with vines destroyed by hail and frost in 2016, and two weeks of frost again in 2017. At Domaine Laroche alone, more than half the production for the Chablis appellation was lost in 2017, and more than 60% at the premier cru level. Grégory Viennois, technical director for the Laroche estates—which include the labels of Laroche (purchased fruit), Domaine Laroche (estate fruit) and Mas la Chevalière (the company’s Languedoc property)—shrugs in acceptance.
“We need to be fatalists,” Viennois says simply. “If the weather and the climate are not with us, we can do nothing.” This acceptance of the climactic challenges of Chablis must surely run in his blood—his parents and grandparents were farmers too. “With winemaking, it’s agriculture,” he reminds me. “You work with the weather. You can’t manage it. We have rainfall and steep slopes. You can’t fight against it. My father and my grandfather felt this way. So I prefer to work in prevention.”