The main theme for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 is #ChooseToChallenge and to “help forge a gender equal world” by celebrating women’s achievements, which is very much the spirit The Buyer hopes to capture with a series of profiles of leading female wine producers and winemakers starting here today with Madeleine Premmereur who is now playing her part in helping Château Barbebelle, in Aix-en-Provence be one of the world’s most respected rosé producers.
Inspired by her late mother, Madeleine Premmereur is helping to take Château Barbebelle to the next level in the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.
Tell us about yourself and your background?
I was born in Aix-en-Provence, to parents both passionate about Château Barbebelle, a family estate from my mother’s side. I am an only child and now the fourth generation of our family to make wine on the estate.
I studied at business school in Lille (EDHEC), afterwards working for a year as a marketing manager at Nestlé. I was very passionate to join my father at Château Barbebelle and so I left Paris very early. Now I work with my him and my husband Valentin Premmereur every day on the estate.
Why and how did you decide on a career in wine? Why did you want to be a winemaker?
It is because I am so passionate for Château Barbebelle, the domain is so unique and life here keeps you busy and fulfilled: from tending the vines and winemaking to organising events and renting out our holiday homes.
My mother died when I was very young. She was very attentive and passionate about the estate, so day after day I try to do my best for her.
Where did you train and learn your winemaking skills?
I am lucky to be born in the wine industry, meaning that from my earliest years I saw my parents working on the vines and in the cellar. We also have a lot of friends who are winemakers, near our estate, they help us a lot if we need advice and we exchange ideas a lot. The atmosphere is very good between us.
Explain your current role in terms of the wines you make, the scale of production and style of wines you are making?
I bring the feminine touch. We want to produce wines with a lot of freshness, minerality and floral notes on the palate and nose. To achiee that we have to be very exact on the date we start our harvest to ensure we have the best conditions with low temperatures at night, no humidity, and good maturity of the grapes. I am also very strict with the selection of our parcels. By harvesting at night we are able to press very fresh grapes, so we extract a pale rosé with a lot of goods aromas.
What do you find the most rewarding and the most challenging about your role?
I am very happy to be at the heart of a wonderful team who trust me. I really appreciate the teams we have both in the vineyards and in the office.
The most challenging is to make sure you are on top of every step in the process – from the vines to the commercial side and how we are marketing and promoting the estate. I am very proud to be the face behind the wines and to work so closely with our customers
What’s it like being a winemaker – is it what you expected?
It’s exciting. Every day is different and challenging. There are many ways to improve what we do, from the wines we make to the marketing or our communications.
What advice and support would you give to others, women in particular, looking to work in wine?
Women are very accepted. On the other hand, you have to expect a lot of hard work and be ready to get your hands dirty and wear jeans, down jackets and come out caterpillars all year round.
What steps would you like to see the industry in general doing to be more inclusive?
I think woman are very well included.
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?
For now, no. I am only 31, and I have too many things to do at the estate for now, but in a few years I hope to be more involved in associations, groups.
It is International Women’s Day next week – do you see that as a good and necessary platform to help promote these issues?
Yes, of course.
What have been the latest steps and innovations you have introduced to your wines and vineyard to improve its quality?
We are now certified HVE (Haut Valeur Environnemental) and are in the process of moving over to organic production. This is a process we have followed for a number of years in order to to preserve the environment, such as ploughing our soils to get rid of weeds. Our estate is a little paradise of 750 acres for flora and fauna.
What are your personal targets and ambitions in your current role?
For the past five years we have made a huge effort to maintain the vines and improve our cellars, now we would like the opportunity when we can to get out more and hear from our customers more regularly. It is thanks to them that Château Barbebelle is doing well.
Personally in January our Château Barbebelle Rosé Fleuri was listed at the best rosé in the world by Decanter. We are very happy and proud of that.
What sort of roles would you be interested in having in the future?
Being a mum and having the opportunity to be able to pass on what my parents were able to teach me – and of course share the passion for this wonderful estate.
UK stockists of Château Barbebelle Rosé Fleuri 2019 include:
Tannin & Oak: http://www.tanninandoak.com – £17.00
Platform Wines: https://www.platformwines.com – £13.99
Tasting House: https://www.tastinghouse.co.uk – £14.28
Wine Shop Online: https://wineshoponline.co.uk – £15.50
Wine Hub: https://www.wine-hub.co.uk/ – £12.50