Elodie BALME – Domaine Elodie Balme
2015 was Elodie Balme’s 10th vintage. With her ready smile and unwavering enthusiasm, it doesn’t look as if this young winemaker regrets her choice of career path for a single moment. Nothing new there – her grandfather, Maurice Charavin was a vigneron. But in her parents’ day the harvest was taken to the cooperative winery in the village; the work consisted only of tending the vines, and the wine was made elsewhere.
Elodie has now closed that chapter very definitively – and very successfully. Her peers are full of admiration. “I just wanted to make my own wines,” says the 32-year-old emphatically. But before joining her parents and developing the Domaine, she resolved to pursue her education, achieving a qualification in viticulture (BTS) and a university diploma (DUT) in Sales and Marketing, both as sandwich courses in Avignon.
With Richaud from the age of 20
So Elodie spent half her time in the classroom and the other half in the winery. She was employed by Domaine Beau Mistral in Rasteau and Domaine Richaud in Cairanne. It was an experience that would stay with her: “They taught me everything I know. I started with Marcel Richaud when I was 20. I revelled in the professional environment and adopted the philosophy and spirit of his wines. The winemaker intervenes as little as possible; the rule is that nature takes its course.”
There’s nothing dogmatic about this young woman as she voices her opinions loud and clear, emphasising
her “respect for her elders” and highlighting the need for humility. “We need to learn, and to make choices,” she says. “We need to find balance and see things from different perspectives. For me, responsible agriculture is the logical choice. Not to please people, or to use as an advertising tool, but simply because that’s what works for me.”
Soon after her arrival, the Domaine started to expand, and the vineyards increased in area. In her winery with its concrete tanks, the young winemaker made a conscious decision to vinify her wines keeping as much of their fruity character intact as possible. That meant limiting both extraction and pigeage. She wanted supple tannins and added finesse. Here again, it’s all down to personal preference. “Of course, I like wines with substance. Our terroir gives us lots of structure, but we also need to make it velvety.”
80 % sold in France
Elodie may be one of the appellation’s youngest winemakers, but she has managed to establish herself in just a few years. Her wines quickly became a benchmark for the Rasteau Cru in France, where she makes some 80% of her sales.
2016 marks the start of a new chapter. She plans to extend the tank room and improve storage capacity, and has her sights set on longer ageing times and new approaches to blending. “And why not a bit more complexity?” she says – “as long as it’s not at the expense of fruit and freshness.”
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