All About Yves
Author: Henry Farrar-Hockley
I did not plan to be a winemaker. I was visiting my brother, who had just found an atelier for his art in Ampuis – the right place for Côte-Rôtie. While I was there I met my future wife Mathilde and I decided to stick around. I needed to find work so a neighbour asked around on my behalf, and here I am, only by chance.
In 1980 I started working for Domaine Delas, the négociants from the Rhône valley. I stayed there until 1987, working only in the vineyard, never in the cellar. It was a good time to acquire land, particularly vineyards, so I rented enough land and planted enough vines to launch my own domaine.
Friends of mine would ask, ‘Why don’t you make your own wine?’ I didn’t know anything about making wines then; I was not a good taster, only a grower. So one day I simply told myself ‘OK’, and in 1987 I made my first vintage. I have improved since then.
My attitude with winemaking has always been ‘why not?’ My philosophy is that each year is a new year. I love improvisation. You have some rules in your head, of course, but I try to forget them, because each year the raw materials are not the same. For instance, these past three years it has been very difficult, but you learn more in a bad year than you do in a good one. In the good year you are opening a door which is already open.
It was natural to ask my brother to design the labels for our bottles. I leave him to it. I said, “It’s your own work, and you know my wine, so interpret it your own way.” We have changed the label only three times – once every 10 years.
When I make my Côte-Rôtie I make two wines from four different sites. I make the vinification and the élevage separately and blend just before bottling. At home you can taste all these different terroirs but, while I could make four different wines, for me the balance is in the blending. Each year I make as much as possible separately so I can understand what is happening: for instance if the soil is more sandy the wine is more elegant, or if there is schist (like in the north of Côte-Rôtie) it will be more strong – this provides the heart and shoulders of my wine.
I play rock guitar – there are only three chords, after all. I own maybe 25 or 30 guitars and my favourites are the oldest, in particular one which was a gift from the winemaker Dave Miner from Napa Valley. He has a good friend who works for Fender, and he made me a black Telecaster with one of my brother’s wine labels on the side. I think this man must be a very good friend.