Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Michel Fauconnet, the winemaker, or chef de cave, at the famed Champagne house, Laurent-Perrier.
Michel Fauconnet began his winemaking career right where he is now — at Laurent-Perrier – and he has always worked there. He began as a trainee in 1973. Throughout the years, he steadily rose through the ranks and became the winemaker, the chef de cave, in 2004.
The story of Laurent-Perrier, of course, far precedes Michel’s time. Founded in 1812 by André Michel Pierlot, the estate changed hands several times, before Bernard de Nonancourt opened the new era of Laurent-Perrier after World War II.
Check out the interview below the fold!
Where were you born and raised?
I grew up on a farm in the countryside of Champagne. My roots are in the chalky terroir.
When and how did you get into wine?
I have been interested in wine ever since I was young—my grandfather made wine in the cellars of our farm.
What has been your career path to where you are?
I have been with Laurent-Perrier my entire career. I started in 1973 and through all my positions consider myself a student—constantly learning and evolving. After almost 30 years, in 2004, I became the Laurent-Perrier Chef de Cave.
In your view, what makes your vineyards special?
Our vineyards encompass 325 different crus planted to all three grape varieties, which allows me as a winemaker the ability to create distinctly unique Champagnes.
What is your general winemaking philosophy?
Produce high-quality Champagnes that are the perfect expression of their terroir.
What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
To continue to improve the quality in vinification and the blending processes.
Who are your favorite wine makers in history, through personal account, or their wines?
Every winemaker has his or her own endearing personalities. My favorite cellar master is Alain Terrier, my predecessor at Laurent-Perrier. He was my teacher and I am the Chef de Cave I am today because of him.
What new winemakers are you most excited about and why?
All those who aim, in one way or another, to improve the quality of our wines in Champagne.
What is your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?
Besides Champagne, the other region where I would have loved to work is Cognac because the notion of quality is also linked to the art of blending. Making Cognac is also a two step process, as in Champagne.
What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?
There are extraordinary wines in every region. The best, most interesting wines I have had outside of Champagne have been those from Saint-Julien in Bordeaux and
Montrachet in Burgundy.
What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar?
A 1925 Cognac.
What’s open in your kitchen right now?
I always have a bottle of Champagne in the fridge ready to be served.
If you had to pick up one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?
My roots, my passion, and my tastes lie in Champagne, so for me every dinner should have a bottle of Champagne.
Is beer ever better than wine?
For my palate, I always prefer wine.
How do you spend your days off?
I use this time to rest my palate.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I had never dared to dream that I would become the winemaker at Laurent-Perrier.
If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
A job where nothing is taken for granted and there is always a challenge.
How do you define success?
Success is passion and the persistent desire to always do more and to do more better.