In this final segment of our interview with Romain Taupenot, the vigneron outlines key moments in his winemaking process, while also reflecting on his journey through wine and the future of his family’s domaine.
The 2015s from Domaine Taupenot-Merme have arrived and are now available exclusively from Martine’s Wines.
What are the toughest decisions you make as a winemaker?
Above all else, winemaking is a thoughtful and meticulous enterprise at each stage, from the vine to the bottle. Winemakers can be similar to some chefs who cook with the finest ingredients, complete all the steps of preparation, but ultimately ruin an elegant, delicious meal by simply adding an inadequate dash of salt in the final stages.
I have, however, identified 3 key moments in the course of my winemaking process. The first one concerns the date of harvest and the order of the plots to be harvested. This first oenological decision, resulting mainly from tasting the berries, marks the culmination of a year of hard work in the vineyard. The decision is usually made late (3 to 5 days prior to harvest) to discover the balance between maturity, health status and weather forecast within each plot. The quality of the wines to be born is determined to a large extent at this exact moment.
The second key moment for me is when I choose to complete maceration. It completes all the winemaking work and should result in a balanced extraction of the polyphenols from the grape depending on the alcohol and the acidity resulting from the alcoholic fermentation. It is at this precise point that the harmonious balance of a future great wine is solidified.
The last key moment in my process is at the end of barrel aging. In this final stage, it is necessary to find a good assortment of barrels that respect and highlight the fruit and freshness of the wine, acting as a flavor enhancer, and in no way contributing vanilla or empyreumatic notes. It is a matter of preserving the harmonious partnership between the balance of the wine, its freshness and its capacity to improve over time.
You have chosen a life of wine. What is most rewarding about this life you lead?
Throughout the ages, water has divided men, whereas wine has brought them together. It seems to me that wine, like art, provides a universally shared and recognized pleasure. I do not think there is any selfish pleasure linked to the consumption of great wines. It is always linked to a moment of conviviality between friends, family or in the occasion of intercultural exchanges.
I have to admit I have been spoiled having grown up in the heart of Côte de Nuits, and it is with humility and pride that I say we have world-renowned terroir that delivers wines of elegance and emotion. When traveling, it is indeed a pleasure to share our culture and long history, our passion, our philosophy and our wines with other culinary cultures–sometimes previously unknown to us—which generates new sensations and unsuspected happy marriages (pairings).
What does the future hold for Taupenot-Merme?
Time flies and the next generation is beginning to get their feet in the starting blocks. Louis, my oldest, continues his studies of BTS in viticulture oenology in Beaune, while Antoine, my second son, will begin his studies in Lyon next September. They will be followed by the children of my sister, who are even younger.
While this addresses the question of the survival of our estate at the dawn of the next generation, my major concern at the present is the development of the size of our estate. However, considering the price of land that continues to eclipse record after record, it does become complicated–if not impossible–to expand in the most beautiful appellations of Burgundy. Should we consider acquiring vineyards in other neighboring regions or abroad where prices remain more sensible? I must admit, I do consider it.
Personally, I am delighted to have passed this passion onto my children, who represent the 10th generation of this winegrowing family. I want them to find happiness and openness in the world. My grandfathers Armand and René would certainly have been filled with joy to learn that our family continues to pursue its destiny in vines and wines.