Credit: Coquerel Family Estates.
Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Christine Barbe, the owner and winemaker of Toquade Wines and the winemaker at Coquerel Family Estates.
Christine was born and raised in Bordeaux. And even though her family worked in the wine industry, Christine says she was never interested in following the family career path. But still – can it really be attributed to pure chance? – her studies undoubtedly prepared her well for the wine career that was to come. She graduated with a degree in biochemistry without knowing what to do with it. It led to a seamless transition to a PhD program in Enology and Viticulture at the Bordeaux Institute of Enology.
While she was a doctoral student, Christine had the fortune of applying her studies to help make wine at Château Carbonnieux and La Louvière in Pessac-Léognan. This is when she fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc. Or, as Christine would say, this is when she developed a certain toquade for Sauvignon Blanc (hence Toquade Wines).
In 1996, Christine graduated with the PhD and she came to California. She explained that in Bordeaux, it is very difficult for female winemakers outside of well-established Bordelais families to advance in the wine industry. And in comparison, in California, “you can do whatever you want.” Not only are jobs more accessible to qualified people, winemakers have the freedom to experiment – something which might be sneered at in Bordeaux as untraditional.
After some time at Gallo, Robert Mondavi, and Trinchero, Christine became the winemaker at Coquerel Family Estates in 2010.
Chatting with Christine was a joy. She retains a thick French accent, and her answers to my questions – sometimes succinct, sometimes stream-of-consciousness – revealed plenty of savoir faire.
Check out our interview with Christine below the fold.
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