Jacques Lardière

#2 Interview avec Jacques Lardière

A Bacchus head on a yellow background, you probably know the wines of Maison Louis Jadot in Beaune in BurgundyJacques Lardière was the winemaker there from 1970 to 2012. To retire from the Pinot Noir was unthinkable, so when Maison Jadot bought in 2013 Résonance, a beautiful estate in Oregon, he started supporting Guillaume Large for the winemaking. 

Tasting with Jacques is like experiencing something magnetic. He is seeking in ourselves the flow that allows us to vibrate in osmosis with the wine. With his speech and his smile, he is embarking us in his arabesques, the ones of his wines. 

It is with a lot of modesty, honnor and curiosity that we had this discussion. I was curious to understand how he manages to wake up all these emotions just with a glass of wine. After working for 5 years at Maison Louis Jadot, this exchange had a sweet, special and privileged note. Jacques belongs to this kind of man who inspires, transmits passion and reawakes in ourselves questioning. I let you vibrate and taste his words. 

How would you explain the philosophy of Jadot in few words?

Honesty. Always looking for truth. Since 1970, when I first met André Gagey, the objective has always been to produce honest wines. The appellation system doesn’t allow us to manipulate it, this is the constraint but it also gives us great potential to produce many different wines, and great wines too! 

What are the things that have driven during your career?

Trying to understand what cannot be understood is exciting for me. Today, we understand very few things about wine, maybe only 2 or 3%. We approach wine with a chemist’s analysis. That is not correct at all, wine is more than that. I am very interested in how we are able to recognize a wine. How we were able to accept and understand why the wine tastes the way it does. This is the reason why we have to go back to the origins of wine’s uses. Initially, wine was a medicine. I have always tried to make wines that are also “good food”. 

For understanding a wine, do you start to understand the terroir? How do you connect both?

I am talking about a place (finage) and not about a terroir. The terroir is Burgundy and after you have the finages which are specific places that have been identified such as Gevrey-Chambertin or Meursault. In these specific places, it is possible to identify an aromatic profile depending on the mineralization of the soils and how the molecules organize themselves within this space. Inside the finages, you will find the Lieux-dits or climats that are written on the land register. When I was speaking about the climats in the 70’s, everybody was laughing at me! From this point, only thrills and vibrations guide you because it is the way of communication with have with wine or any aliment. 

Where does your philosophy and approach to wine making come from?

I look for it everywhere. I have worked a lot on quantum physics. For that, I visited many holy places to understand magnetic fields and energy force fields within them and to see if I was able to feel them. It is only after doing this that I tried to apply this approach to blind tastings to understand if the hierarchy of Burgundy wines is logical and it is.

I have met people who tasted with you 10 or even 20 years ago and they still really remember this experience. What is your secret?

I think it maybe comes from the fact that I have always tried to help them to deeply understand what wine is. It is important to adapt our speech to the person that we are with. I have always done in-depth and long tastings to let them get beyond their preconceptions or their self-control. 

At some point, they have to let that go and push those emotions away to be able to really feel and experience the wine. Only then, they can make their own mind up if they like the wine or not. The most important thing is not being influenced by the name we see on the barrel… we don’t give a damn! The most important thing is the energy that we sense in it, and this will be different for every wine and every individual. That’s why the diversity between the different appellations is so special. It is important to not manipulate the wine making process because we will loose these differences, and we will forget the special characteristics and energy of each wine. 

How do you embark people in this tasting experience?

II trust people, I give them the keys to free themselves and let everything go. This is why we don’t give a damn about technical terminology. When we rely on technical words, it’s like we don’t know how to explain the wine. It is important to use people’s own words and to speak their language. That’s why I have tried to forget these technical words that nobody understands. I don’t really know even if they have a real meaning. We need to talk using references to a philosophy, to something out of the ordinary, using powerful words that we all have in common. By doing this, everyone can understand, even foreigners. 

I like to say that everyone has a sunny side and a dark side. During the tasting you will experience both. We begin tasting in the darkness, and as the tasting goes on, the light enters. After the tasting, you are filled with more light.

For many years, I liked to have fun analyzing the aromatic nuances. I was doing tastings and finding 30 or 40 aromas in each wine, which is really complex. When one molecule transforms there are 30 to 40 aromas created and freed during this process. This is really complicated. So, for example, we use the descriptive blackcurrant, because it is easy, but this doesn’t mean anything because when you think about it, there maybe no blackcurrant aroma and someone else will smell something completely different. We identify and name these aromas, which is a big mistake. Tasting is a trap especially when we use too much technical vocabulary that can impose and influence our own perceptions on others.

I have never influenced a person who came for a tasting at Jadot. I was able to do tastings until 9pm or 10pm at night if the person had the time. Those moments were a real pleasure for me. I would take the time because for the person I was with it might be their only visit or tasting at Jadot in their life! It wasn’t really Jadot that I let them taste; I wanted to let them experience the beauty of Burgundy. Burgundy is amazing: such a tiny area with so much diversity in terroir. 

Are there some appellations that gave you more grey hairs than others?

There were some appellations where I was feeling more energy from them. I had a special connection with them and felt a really high regard for these great wines. They could give a huge range of 4000 aromas when well vinified, it is extraordinary. However, when a wine develops only 500 aromas, the energy is different, the wine won’t provoke the same depth of emotions and feelings but that was not important to me. What was interesting to me, was to have a simple wine as low as possible in the classification system and bring out it’s best potential. By doing this you are not trying to pretend that it is something better than it is. I was interested in giving this wine ageing potential of 10, 20 years minimum. This is the minimum for a Burgundy wine, anything less than that is a travesty! If we can’t do this, it means that there is something that we haven’t done, that we haven’t linked the soil microphysics, our world and the universe. To achieve this connection and balance there has to be equilibrium between these three elements. 

What was your best vintage as winemaker?

There are several elements to take into account, the raw material and the result of the vintage in the bottle. For instance, 1971. When I think that the wines macerated for only 6 hours to a day – this is when I showed André Gagey that the most important thing is the energy in a wine and not the tannins. The proof is that 40 years later, we can still drink these wines. To answer your question , 1971 was THE vintage. 

The other extraordinary vintage was 1997 for different reasons. Also , I loved 1985, a great vintage.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

I taste wine. I used to be able to taste 7 to 8 hours per day. I use the energy from the wine to make me feel good. When we understand and use this technique, we can taste for as long we like. 

What is the best compliment someone can give to you when they taste your wine?

I am happy if the person tells me that the wine is good, that they are enjoying it and it is enthralling all their senses. If the person is pleased straight away, it exasperates me because I am not interested in the immediate. It is interesting when the person tastes, takes the time and allows himself or herself to experience the energy within the wine. Only at this point can our senses tell our brain “ it’s great, it is interesting and I like it!”.

What are you the most proud of? 

I am very proud to have kept a beautiful Burgundy flag flying above Maison Louis Jadot. I am passionate about Burgundy so it is important to have given something back.

Jacques Lardière

Stream of consciousness 

  • Music : I listen to a lot of music. I am a big fan of Ferret, Brel, Brassens. I like Mozart, I listened it in the winery, I like Bach… I don’t know a lot about classical music but I like it a lot. I would love to know more about opera for instance.
  • Book : I read 5 to 6 books at the same time ! Right now, I am reading one on herbs (not the kind you smoke!), classics such as Victor Hugo, Virgile. I have read almost all of Steiner’s work because it was something I was introduced to when I was 15 by my father. 
  • Movie : A movie that impacted me… Décaméron
  • Meal : I never do the same recipe twice because I love to be creative. Other than any seafood, a recipe that means a lot to is me is vendéennes mogettes (local white beans) cooked in water with a veal sirloin and a salad with garlic sauce… When I was young, my mother always cooked this. I love “terroir” cuisine. It is simple but tasty.
  • Memorable bottle : The first time I tasted Montrachet Grand Cru 1904. That wine really impressed me a lot !
  • Vintage : 1997 at Jadot
  • Wine grape : Pinot Noir, also Cabernet Franc and Merlot.For the whites, Chardonnay of course!
  • Smell : Leafy and vegetal smells, whilst appreciating that they will develop and transform.
  • Color : Blue, I wear it a lot. I also like green and red.
  • Destination : The desert. I have never visited one and this is somewhere I would like to explore. The closest I have got experiencing the desert was in Arizona. It was a very meditative place for me because you are stripped of all the outside influences of the environment around you, so you can easily reconnect with your inner self.
  • Perfect sunday : Preparing a nice lunch even if it is just something simple, it always has to be very tasty. Reading, walking, going to the cinema. Living peacefully. And when I am with my children, they are my priority.

Marie-Pierre Dardouillet

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying or other electronic or mecanical methods, without the prior written permission of the editor.