Even a successful career working for a top a management consultancy in Paris could not prevent Maud Negrel returning to her spiritual roots in Provence and her family’s Mas de Cadenet estate in Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire. Here she talks on International Women’s Day about how her new life in wine, and working with her brother, Matthieu, as the seventh generation of this winemaking family.
Mas de Cadenet has established itself as one of the leading Provence producers and Maud Negrel is keen to continue, but also grow her family’s winemaking reputation.
Tell us about yourself and your background?
I was born in Provence and grew up on the family estate – Mas de Cadenet. I had very much a rural youth, full of freedom, connected to nature.
I then studied finance at university. My parents didn’t expect me to enter the world of wine. They wanted both myself and my brother to be free to choose. We are the seventh generation of our family and they felt it was important to give us that freedom.
I worked as a financial auditor for PwC, the management consultancy, in Paris. It was a rich experience but after 10 years and the birth of my first child, I realised that living far from the domain and my vines was not in my nature.
I decided to give up my financial career and return to the family estate. I have to admit my father was not expecting me to come back. My brother had already returned by this stage, and we now had this opportunity to run the estate together.
How did you gain the necessary wine training?
Even though I grew up in a world punctuated by life of vine and wine, my technical skills were not enough, so I did additional training. But there is nothing better than practising. Harvest after harvest, you learn about gestures, terroir, grapes. You improve your palate, create your own taste.
Can you explain your current role in terms of the wines you make, the scale of production and style of wines you are making?
Today, on Mas de Cadenet, we are producing about 300,000 bottles on 150 acres. As we are based in Provence, rosé is our main production. My brother and I have developed a strong know-how in rosé making. But our vision for the domain wines is to express the best of the exceptional “Sainte Victoire” terroir we have – which is why we produce organic wines. Wines that match up to our tagline: Refine, freshness, minerality.
Based on this rosé know-how, we have also developed a trading firm called ‘Famille Negrel’. For example, we also produce the rosé for Cameron Diaz’s new brand, Avaline.
What do you find the most rewarding and the most challenging about your role?
The most rewarding is achieving the style of wine you had imagined and all efforts that go into the vine and wine production to make you realise this goal. With vines, it is always a long-time process, with a lot of questions.
What do you like most about being a winemaker and what advice would you give to those looking to do the same?
It is so satisfying to make grapes become wine. It really is magic. I would thoroughly recommend it, it is a fantastic product to be involved in. But keep in mind, it is a job that is probably not what you imagine it to be.
What steps would you like to see the wine industry, in general, doing to be more inclusive?
I would like people to stop thinking when a woman appears that “she is the seller” and ask instead if she is the winemaker, the owner or the vine grower.
The new generation is more open to imagining a woman can be part of the production. And women have to stop putting up barriers for themselves.
Do you see yourself in a leadership role as a woman in the trade – if so what steps and influence do you hope to have?
I don’t see myself as a leader, but each of us is necessarily a reference for the other. I am part of an association of women of wine in France – Les Eleonores de Provence. That’s amazing to see the support we give each other, without any ego. It really matters.
It is International Women’s Day – do you see that as a good and necessary platform to help promote these issues?
Unfortunately, it is a necessary platform. Differences in term of salary, access to job are still here. And we do not speak here of the more general matter of human respect.
What have been the latest steps and innovations you have introduced to your wines and vineyard to improve its quality?
After our conversion to organic production 10 years ago, we focus far more on the right balance of our soils life, in order to have stronger vines, and thus better grapes.
What are your personal targets and ambitions with Mas de Cadenet?
My role is to continue the development of Mas de Cadenet. I want my generation, to be recognised and respected for the part we played in the estate’s recognition. Along with my brother we are now making the kinds of wines we first said we wanted to make 10 years ago. We have recently taken on new plots and now have to invest in the equipment to increase our production.
It’s our role to keep promoting and helping people reconnect with the farming aspect of winemaking. I feel that some people have lost that relationship with nature.