Domaine Georges-Lombrière | Interview of Benoit Lombrière
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Interview with Benoit Lombriere,

Winemaker from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France

Could you introduce yourself in three minutes ?

My name is BenoitLombrière. With Marie, my wife, we own the Domaine Georges-Lombrière in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Three years ago we bought 5 of the 13 hectares of the land Marie’s father, who wanted to retire, was farming.
From the beginning, we were joined in our endeavor by Alaric de Portal, a friend of the family and a fine connoisseur of the wine world and its players.
Together we created our Domaine. Our intent was to make a wine that reflects who we are.

What is your background ?

My family comes from the Périgord region, in the South-West of France, where we’ve been farmers for many centuries. I myself grew up in a farm, until the age of 7. That’s probably the reason why I feel such a connection to the land, the need for healthy and fresh products and the willingness to honor nature’s cycles.

Where does your passion for wine and making wine come from ?

I always knew that, sooner or later, I would work the land. That is where I’m from.
I’ve always been passionate about wine. Through the people I met and the conversations I had, it gradually became a central part of my life. I love the diverse range of emotions linked to wine, the friendly atmosphere one finds at wine tastings and the passionate exchange of ideas they nurture.

Therefore, when we were given the opportunity to take over part of the family’s vineyard on the magnificent region of Châteauneuf-du- Pape, we seized it without hesitation.
We jumped in this adventure with grand ambitions and surrounded ourselves with passionate and dedicated people to create a great team :

– Claude and Lydia Bourguignon help us better understand our soil, a necessary prerequisite for those wanting to produce the best possible grapes.
– Pierre-Jean Villa, a winemaker from Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu, brought his benevolent expertise on the issues of winemaking and blending.
– Franck Ferraton is in charge of daily operations and is as talented as he is modest.
With our energy, our motivation and our newly assembled team we decided to produce a wine made by passionate people, a wine with a powerful, common purpose. In short, a wine that represents us.

I always knew that, sooner or later, I would work the land. That is where I’m from.

According to you, which is the best wine in the world ?
The Cuvée Marie from the Domaine George-Lombrière! In all seriousness, I do not like this idea of competition or trying to claim which is “the best”. There are so many wines to discover! It is important to remain curious, to follow one’s own instinct and to never fall into preconceptions before tasting.
As far as I’m concerned, I love wine from winemakers who are passionate about their terroir, their land, but also have no trouble in expressing certain predispositions, their own identity, an idea or an expression they are advocating when producing their wine. That is something we at the Domaine also try to achieve. To some degree, making the best wine in the world should always be a winemakers’ objective. However, the day they start thinking, “that’s it, I’m now making the best wine in the world”, is the day they need to seriously worry.

Where does the Domaine Georges-Lombrière stand in comparison to the prestigious domaines in the area ?
In Châteauneuf-du-Pape we have the great fortune of having a world- renown “appellation”, well deserved by the way. There is room for everyone, and therefore I have no competitors in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, only colleagues.
Our Domaine produces around 10.000 bottles of wine peryear,our size allows us to be free to champion our own vision for Châteauneuf-du-Pape:
–  Agricultural practices which are respectful of the land: in our vines, the inputs we add to the soil are all organic.

– The tone of our wine is very much set by Grenache, with a gentle extraction that allows for a fruity finesse and creates a lighter side. It lets the terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to fully express itself in its complex subtlety rather than focusing too much on the wood or the alcohol.

30 or 40 years ago, wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape were much clearer
than they are today, using less Syrah. They were heavily influenced by Grenache, a fabulous variety of grapes that produces very clear wines.
Our commitment is to return to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape which has been some what forgotten and forsaken in recent years. Here at theDomaine Georges-Lombrière, we have sought to return to this vein of Châteauneuf- du-Pape that highlights Grenache, which is consistent with the terroir’s identity. Of course, we are not the only producers to have followed this path. For quite some time now, Château Rayas, one of our biggest inspiration, has produced wine almost as clear as Bourgogne wines.
We try to create a wine that is a reflection of us, a grape wine rather than a cellar wine, without comparing ourselves to others.
A friend, who is a restaurant chef, told me recently: “your Châteauneuf is good, it’s like if a great Pinot from Burgundy rooted itself in Châteauneuf- du-Pape and took a glassful of sun before entering the vat.”

What are your domain’s values and strengths ?
–  Its consistency with the terroir;
–  The dedication of a team of passionate and self-demanding people;
–  The search for excellence without becoming an elitist wine;
–  Curiosity and an open mind to wines from the rest of the world;
–  Kindness and good will.

What are the next septs, the next wines ?
We don’t want to start multiplying our portfolio, we produce 10.000 bottles per year, it is a quite small production so we’d rather focus ourselves on our red wine, Cuvée Marie.
During the first semester of 2017 we will launch our first white wine with the 2016 vintage, the “Cuvée Thaïs”. We are very proud of this wine, it shows great promise. We will produce a little under 1.000 bottles.

Where to you see your domain in 10, 20, 30 years ?
To continue our growth without losing our identity, continue working with our team, always seeking excellence and never settling or telling ourselves “that’s it, we made it”.

In your eyes, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur ?
To be an entrepreneur is to have a clear vision of what you are seeking to achieve, of what you want to defend and to be able to share this vision with a team.
The story of Domaine Georges-Lombrière is not one of a lonely winemaker, alone in his winery. It’s the story of a team, with people sharing a common aspiration. You know, taking over a domain was a choice. It was not an obligation and even less a necessity. With our small production we could have told ourselves “we have a prestigious appellation, let’s settle for a decent Châteauneuf-du-Pape and all will be well”. We made another choice. We decided to promote an interpretation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, not necessarily the most obvious one, but one that allows for all those involved to reach their potential, with the risks it entails. That’s probably the true meaning of being an entrepreneur.

To be an entrepreneur is to have a clear vision of what you are seeking to achieve, of what you want to defend and to be able to share this vision with a team.

Cuvée Marie’s first vintage received glowing reviews, how do you explain this success ?
It is true that our 2014 vintage was very well received from the start. Our 2015 vintage has received even better reviews. Though these reviews do not influence the kind of wine we are trying to make, positive feedback is always appreciated. Perhaps it is due to the fact that we have sought to create a coherent wine, with a team that has worked sincerely and with a common purpose. We have sought to put the best of ourselves in this wine, without copying what others are doing.

Cuvée Marie is already available in the most prestigious restaurants in France: Anne Sophie Pic, Yannick Alléno, Alain Dutournier, Hélène Darroze, Stéphane Jégo, Guillaume Iskandar and even the Presidency of the French Republic. How did you achieve this ?
We took our bottles and went to meet with restaurant owners, chefs and sommeliers. Some we already knew. For others, we had been patrons in their establishments. We are also present in many lesser known restaurants which all share the same values: love and respect for great products and terroirs. Deep down that is what we have always try to do with this wine. We went to see them and advocated for what we were trying to achieve: create a Châteauneuf-du-Pape which wasn’t conventional. I think they liked this approach.


In which restaurant would you like to be present ?
In restaurants where the chef pays attention to his or her supplies, knows the providing-farmers and producers and strive to enhance his or her country’s culinary diversity. The first two professionals we worked with were Alain Dutournier, who has a deep connection with his native region of theLandes, and Guillaume Muller, the sommelier of the restaurant “Garance” in Paris, who recently took over his family’s farm in the Limousin. They are people we share a lot with. To answer more directly your question, one of the best meals I ever had was at “Bras” in Laguiole. I would be thrilled to one day have the honor to be selected to pair his cuisine.

Your personal moto ?
A quote often credited to Mark Twain: “They did not know it was impossible so they did it”.

Your soft spot ?
I have two: chartreuse VEP, an extraordinary liquor produced in the French Alps, and Château-Châlon, a delicious yet very special wine from Jura.

Your greatest pride ?
My children, my wife and what we are building in our Domaine. Creating a team-dynamic with people whom work I admire. They have chosen to follow us in this adventure and to help us thrive.

How would to define your domain in three words ?
Excellence, passion, respect for the land.

What would you consider to be your personal qualities, your shortcoming ?
– Enthusiasm, passion, resolve
– Uncompromising, perhaps too quick to trust: I’d rather be disappointed than to miss out on an opportunity.

What is a good wine in your opinion ?
A wine that you love to share.

Your favorite wine ?
At our daughter’s baptism, we had our own Cuvée Marie, which is named after my wife. But we also had “Cuvée Carmina” from Pierre-Jean Villa’s Côte-Rôtie and “A Françoise” from Thibault Boudignon in Anjou.

Your favorite restaurant ?
I will make too many enemies if I answer that question !